Stephin Merrit’s Life, Ranked
(Wait, is it with an ‘i’?? I have been misspelling him my all life…)
The best Magnetic Fields albums always come with a good, solid gimmick, don’t they?
We all know (and love. If you don’t love it we can never be friends. Or even sexual partners. Unless you have, like, really nice tits) ’69 Love Songs’, but there was also the brilliant ‘i’ (where every song began with said letter); the less brilliant ‘Distortion’ (where every song was layered with Jesus and Mary Chain levels of interference); ‘Love Gas from the Digestive Tract’ (which featured Stephin Merrit burping after every line); ‘Hank and Peggy’ (in which all 259 tracks were based on a separate ‘King of the Hill’ episode, which was a brilliant way of honouring one of the most underrated TV shows of all time which I’m totally going to steal!); and ‘Fabio’s Groove Ride’ (the tale of Fabio killing a goose while on a rollercoaster. No, I will never stop referencing that incident! It happened on this very day in 1999, have some fucking respect).
[I started this ‘review’ yesterday, so it’s now exactly 19 years and one day since it happened]
’50 Song Memoir’ is what it says on the tin, with each of it songs referring to a different year in Merrit’s life. Yes, there’s 50 songs, because Stephin Merrit always prefers to go absolutely gall bladder out when he’s got a gimmick he really likes.
It’s not as good as ’69 Love Songs’, because of course it isn’t as good as the best album ever with a number in its title, but it’s still an astonishingly strong collection. The highs are no way near the heights of ’69…’,
but a far greater percentage of its songs are worthwhile: there are no piss-taking throwaways like Punk Love or Experimental Music Love and far less contrived arch jokes such as Love is Like Jazz. I might even argue that there are more great songs on ’50…’ than they are on ’69…’, but there’s nothing here anywhere near the sheer majesty of Busby Berkeley Dreams or The Book of Love or All My Little Words or The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure or I Don’t Want to Get Over You or I Shatter or…
[continues for several minutes]
I once had the brilliant idea of, instead of attempting a full Necessary Evil 2017 countdown of albums that I’ve barely lived with for three or four months, why not just have a top 50 of the songs on ’50 Song Memoir’, going into detail on all the topics and emotions brought up!? Pretty awesome, yeah?!
Unfortunately, I got that brilliant idea after I’d already started this stupid fucking list. I mean, I’m still going to do it, it just won’t be as good. Hope you’re all fine with that.