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“If I think of a ‘real job,’ I think of journalism”
October 22, 2010 7:36 PM   Subscribe

Stephin Merritt's TONY archive. Between 1996 and 2000, the principal singer and songwriter in the band The Magnetic Fields, filed more than 100 articles for Time Out New York, including record reviews, concert previews, a minigolf report, interviews, and a list of the best recordings of each year of the 20th century. Via.
posted by ND¢ (13 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is plain awesome, thank you.
posted by $0up at 7:49 PM on October 22, 2010


Merritt presenting a film series in NYC this weekend.
posted by hermitosis at 7:52 PM on October 22, 2010


Earl Anthony's New City Bowl and Mini Golf [...] It's very cute and dinky and falling apart, like the Daniel Johnston of putt-putts.

I think no more awesome line has ever been written about a mini-golf course... just penetrating that statement leaves my head swimming...
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 8:58 PM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyone who doesn't understand, please google "Papa was a Rodeo"
posted by Ironmouth at 9:48 PM on October 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just like everything, I guess.
posted by notion at 10:19 PM on October 22, 2010


I found "69 Love Songs" after my final year of college, and I've had ups and downs with it since then. Suffice it to say that there are times when Stephin Merritt seems ridiculous to me, and then there are times when he's doing "All The Umbrellas In London," which might be the best song he's ever done (in my own mind, anyway.) Maybe it's the fickleness of growing up, but now I feel like a lot of the stuff that he did with 69 Love Songs was a mistake, because I love the electronic sound of Charm of the Highway Strip and particularly Get Lost. But that doesn't really matter – he's like a familiar cousin, and a few months ago when I found myself in a new place I listened to Love Songs again and got transported back in time to those days just after graduation when I ended up in California and sat around listening to music with a friend and wandering around San Francisco. It's great memory music, and sometimes very charming.

It's neat to find he also has some depth as a writer and listener. It sort of figures; I knew vaguely that he liked ABBA this much, and that he knew every note the Human League have ever put to tape by heart, and that he is well aware of Gary Numan's lyrical prowess. These are really great little essays, some of them a lot of fun; I'm glad he's willing to take swings at Brian Eno, for example (“It's another of his Music for Films albums of studio noodling, but without the atmosphere... I think this is the worst record I've ever heard”) and of course the Michael Bolton and Neil Diamond reviews are entertaining.

One thing I have to note: he inexplicably got through his whole list of 100 records from the 20th century without mentioning a single band from New Orleans, as far as I can tell. That's sort of astounding, especially for the 1920s and 1930s. But what's pleasing is my sense that he'd probably kick himself and agree if I mentioned this to him. It's a great list, nonetheless, and a hell of a lot of fun; he manages to have me at turns outraged (Roxy Music's "Avalon?" Huh?) and cheering him on (Pulp's "Different Class" & Jobim's score for "Black Orpheus" - yeah!) which means it's pretty much succeeding, I think.

Thanks for this.
posted by koeselitz at 11:19 PM on October 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Scene: After a Magnetic Fields concert in mid-to-late '90s

Me: Hi. Could you sign this?
SM: (turning the piece of paper over in his hand, slowly examining it. Puzzled look on his face.) You seem to have stolen my set list.
Me: (sheepishly) uh, yeah. Is that ok?
SM: (rolls eyes)
Me: Maybe make it out to my S.O. who couldn't make it. [it was a 4hr drive each way]
SM: (rolls eyes)
Me: (uncomfortably smiling, standing in front of my idol.)
SM: (looking around the room. Clearly disinterested. Likely looking for an escape...)
Me: (extended uncomfortable silence continues. Chewing on lip. Half smile.)
SM: (Exhales. Glances around. Scribbles something. Hands paper back to me.)
Me: (backing away) Thank you!

I didn't even stop to read it until I was on the other side of the room.

"XXXXX, you should have come. We played for hours." - Stephin Merritt

Of course, the highlight of my Magnetic Fields obsession involved being called out at a show where I wasn't even in attendance and reading about it on the Stephinsongs mailing list the next morning.
posted by shoepal at 1:31 AM on October 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


a list of the best recordings each year of the 20th century

I'm with him right up until 1979, "Cars" by Gary Numan. Something must have happened to his brain that year. Maybe he hit his head or something. But his taste immediately goes straight into the toilet. Of course, this is all of a piece with Merritt's output. One great song for every three crappy songs. And out of those three crappy songs, at least one will be so utterly lazy, pointless and self-indulgent that you wanna hit the guy. Then that fourth song will come up -- the great one -- and you grit your teeth and say, okay he's a genius ...
posted by Faze at 5:28 AM on October 23, 2010


Love this, thanks. Was worth it just to see that Reno Dakota interview alone.
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 6:19 AM on October 23, 2010


Love this. Those interested in SM side-projects might check out The 6ths, Future Bible Heroes, and The Gothic Archies.
posted by stinker at 8:52 AM on October 23, 2010


Faze: “One great song for every three crappy songs. And out of those three crappy songs, at least one will be so utterly lazy, pointless and self-indulgent that you wanna hit the guy. Then that fourth song will come up -- the great one -- and you grit your teeth and say, okay he's a genius ...”

That's actually why I prefer his earlier albums, before he got on this infernal 'I'm going to write so many songs on a single theme that I could puke, just as an experiment" kick that he's still on to this day. Seriously, get a copy of The Charm of the Highway Strip if you haven't heard it – he was actually still "editing himself" back then. Every single song is gold.
posted by koeselitz at 9:37 AM on October 23, 2010


a list of the best recordings each year of the 20th century

I started arguing with his choice when I realised he hadn't included the Beatles, but he pulled me round with his 80s and 90s selections. Anyone who can go from Marc Almond to Chris Knox to Public Enemy in three years is doing something right (not to mention JaMC and MARRS immediately before that).

One great song for every three crappy songs. And out of those three crappy songs, at least one will be so utterly lazy, pointless and self-indulgent that you wanna hit the guy. Then that fourth song will come up -- the great one -- and you grit your teeth and say, okay he's a genius ...

I'd say he's batting over .500 in the golden period (for me 'Holiday' through to '69 Love Songs', though I haven't quite clicked with 'Highway Strip' yet). Post 69, I'd agree that he's down to maybe 1 in 3 or 4 good songs. But if you did a compilation of Merritt's 50 best songs, it would be an amazing compilation.
posted by Infinite Jest at 9:50 AM on October 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd buy a Time/Life 10-disc compilation set for five easy payments of twenty dollars each if the only song on it was "It's Only Time" like 130 times in a row.
posted by mintcake! at 11:19 AM on October 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


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