Allow me, now, to introduce a theory:
June 25, 2015 8:18 PM   Subscribe

Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by a band called Neutral Milk Hotel are the same record. I got nothing to add beyond this is a goddamn beautiful piece of writing and that these two albums stand singular as two of the most extraordinary albums I've ever heard.
posted by maupuia (54 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've got a theory, that it's a demon
A dancing demon (no, something isn't right here)
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:26 PM on June 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


Metafilter: I assume that at some point you’ll have made a similarly baroque liturgy out of your love for some like object.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:33 PM on June 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


The Clash's Cut the Crap and Billy Ray Cyrus' Some Gave All are the same record. Discuss.
posted by item at 8:34 PM on June 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


John Cougar Mellencamp's The Scarecrow and Rodney Dangerfield's Rappin' Rodney are the same record. No need for discussion.
posted by item at 8:36 PM on June 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


OK come on I started the Van Morrison video and the Neutral Milk Hotel video in the article, I am listening to them both at once, and they don't really go together at all.
posted by idiopath at 8:39 PM on June 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


No man you have to wait until Van Morrison rings his bicycle bell for them to really sync up.
posted by item at 8:42 PM on June 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


I continue to be amazed at the amount of time some people have on their hands.
posted by nevercalm at 8:50 PM on June 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I just tubed the neural milk, the cat slapped me.
posted by clavdivs at 8:56 PM on June 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


At some point in your life music makes you feel something more. Some people have it always. Some people at critical junctures in their lives. Some people for a particular album. In a perfect world everyone would have it, at least once.
posted by triage_lazarus at 8:58 PM on June 25, 2015 [22 favorites]


In a miserable world, you have it all the time and why can't all of the music from forever run through your physical body to the rest of the universe at once for all of the time so you don't have to feel anything else again please.
posted by dogwalker at 9:26 PM on June 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is a really gorgeous piece of writing. Thanks for sharing it! I especially loved this line, which is a perfect way to describe In the Aeroplane Over the Sea: What you’re left with, on both records, is a piece of pure, maniacal exultation – a prayer, you could say, of grieving, violent love for the world.

Also, is the implication of the below passage that his wife died? Or one of his stepdaughters?
“Marriage is a noble daring,” John Dryden wrote, and I thought about that phrase a lot during my married years. I liked it, not least for its edge of cynical satire. Had I been paying closer attention, though, I might have caught the implication, not only about bravery and tenacity, but about the omnipresence of fear. Only slowly did I come into the sense that as your happiness scaled up and grew intricate and involved so too, in exact proportion, did the quantity of your life given over to dread. I spent a lot of time afraid of something happening to the girls. I spent a lot of time afraid of something happening to our lives together.

Something happened.
posted by yasaman at 9:27 PM on June 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


I read the "Something happened" as divorce. But who knows.
posted by maupuia at 9:31 PM on June 25, 2015


Turns out someone had just stuck the CDs in the wrong cases. Nevermind.
posted by The World Famous at 9:41 PM on June 25, 2015 [21 favorites]


For one night I had the same theory about Alan Parsons Project's I, Robot and Radiohead's OK Computer
posted by sourwookie at 9:44 PM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Seems like a really personal thing the author is trying to use to thread a universal constant between the two, which is noble, but tedious. I'd rather discover the actual cultural milieu that brings disparate sounds together into unique moments in musical history, like say the English beat and King tubby and how dub and ska influenced early punk and new wave but that's just my preference. Nostalgia has a twee charm that I can appreciate when it intersects my own nostalgia, but van Morrison is just too far outside my neutral milk hotel to make a Reese's peanut butter cup.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:55 PM on June 25, 2015 [3 favorites]




Reese's peanut butter cups and Ragu Thick and Hearty Marinara are the same foods. Discuss.
posted by item at 10:19 PM on June 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Magnetic Fields and the 6ths are the same band. Discuss.
posted by benzenedream at 10:34 PM on June 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Reign in Blood and Darkness on the Edge of Town are basically the same album.
posted by The World Famous at 10:35 PM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Neutral Milk Hotel" is an actual band and not just a fake band name on an episode of Parks and Recreation?

*google musics*

hunh
posted by notyou at 10:35 PM on June 25, 2015


For those who tl;dr: The author made a mix tape. There are no songs from either album on it.

But the "estimable and ramifying joy" he's talking about?
You could turn your experience of dumbstruck delight in a thing into something else – theories, words to trade – and it would lose nothing. It might in fact be said to gather into itself a new kind of density and brightness, something lit from within by the presence of other people, and your love for them, and theirs for you. This is what I meant when I would say, as I did say many years later as he stood beside me on my wedding day, that my friend had given me my first glimpse of what criticism could be, and why you might want to make a life out of it.
Is why the long read is worth it.
posted by Thella at 11:00 PM on June 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


Neutral Milk Hotel and David Foster Wallace strike me as similar in that you, as a fan, are convinced that you and no one else uniquely understands what is being communicated, that the art is speaking directly and profoundly to you and only you. Except it's actually you and millions of other people, and you're not unique or special at all in your understanding and appeciation of this thing. And you wake up one day to a world in which Jeff Mangum concerts sell out in seconds and you can't get tickets without paying outrageous scalping prices, and in which an Oscar-bait Hollywood movie is being made about David Foster Wallace starring Jason Segel. I don't know what to call this phenomenon, but it tends to slightly bum me out if I think about it too much.
posted by naju at 11:05 PM on June 25, 2015 [23 favorites]


"Neutral Milk Hotel" is an actual band and not just a fake band name on an episode of Parks and Recreation?

Actual band, not to be confused with Tokio Hotel, which is not to be confused with Tokyo Police Club.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:48 PM on June 25, 2015


...not to be confused with The Police who are not to be confused with The The who are not to be confused with The Ex who are not to be confused with Extreme.
posted by item at 12:09 AM on June 26, 2015


item: "...not to be confused with The Police who are not to be confused with The The who are not to be confused with The Ex who are not to be confused with Extreme."

The who?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:11 AM on June 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


naju: "Neutral Milk Hotel and David Foster Wallace strike me as similar in that you, as a fan, are convinced that you and no one else uniquely understands what is being communicated, that the art is speaking directly and profoundly to you and only you. Except it's actually you and millions of other people, and you're not unique or special at all in your understanding and appeciation of this thing. And you wake up one day to a world in which Jeff Mangum concerts sell out in seconds and you can't get tickets without paying outrageous scalping prices, and in which an Oscar-bait Hollywood movie is being made about David Foster Wallace starring Jason Segel. I don't know what to call this phenomenon, but it tends to slightly bum me out if I think about it too much"

It's called "being a hipster" and "complaining about selling out" and then talking about how "you were into before it was popular".
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:12 AM on June 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Nor Hong Kong Danger Duo
posted by rhizome at 12:12 AM on June 26, 2015


I just saw Neutral Milk Hotel perform their "last ever" show at the Phoenix theater in Petaluma, and after the show one of the band members explained that the band's name came from a William S. Burroughs style cut up that Jeff Mangum made from the lyrics of a friend's song.

And I just learned that Van is short for Ivan. I thought he had changed his name to something Muslimish but google tells me that was Cat Stevens. And now I just learned that Moondance is a different song than Moonshadow. huh
posted by thetruthisjustalie at 12:12 AM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wasn't familiar with either record, so I thought I should read the article first, but it had so many commas, especially so many remembrances inserted with commas instead of other punctuation, not to mention other passive sentences, that it made me tired and I had to stop.

(Until now I've never been made carsick from reading, but this made me urpy. You don't need to insert a comma every time you draw breath).
posted by Graygorey at 12:18 AM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


The The who are not to be confused with The Ex who are not to be confused with Extreme.

or The XX, or X.
posted by chavenet at 12:19 AM on June 26, 2015


It's called "being a hipster" and "complaining about selling out" and then talking about how "you were into before it was popular".

Eh, I'm not talking about this at all. It's more about art which you feel is speaking directly and profoundly to you. It's true hipsters like both Neutral Milk Hotel and DFW, but there's some extra quality present in those things (and Van Morrison, maybe?) that provides some cognitive dissonance when you realize this writer or musician is not speaking directly and uniquely to your very specific understanding of the world. I'm not wording it well.
posted by naju at 12:36 AM on June 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Neutral Milk Hotel and David Foster Wallace strike me as similar in that you, as a fan, are convinced that you and no one else uniquely understands what is being communicated, that the art is speaking directly and profoundly to you and only you. Except it's actually you and millions of other people, and you're not unique or special at all

I never felt this way about the works of either artist. Both I enjoy for the sheer expression of creative skill, of knowing boundaries and the elasticity of them along with their tensile strength. Both artists take me away from where I am right now and deposit me in an alternate but very reminiscent universe where I understand everything except the actual, you know, capabilities of its inhabitants. When thinking of myself in relation to the artists, I have no place at all in the scenario except in a shadowed, silent, expectant, audience with my belief suspended and in hope of being mesmerised.

convinced that you and no one else uniquely understands what is being communicated

Ah yeah, the omnipresent ego of the teenage mind.
posted by Thella at 1:37 AM on June 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Actual band, not to be confused with Tokio Hotel, which is not to be confused with Tokyo Police Club.

And definitely not to be confused with Tokyo Sexwale.
posted by corvine at 1:41 AM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


It is the sound of a young man contending with the blank fact, obvious and all but inconceivable, that those we love will die, quite independently of the force and implacability of our love for them.

Good sentence.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:22 AM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]




It's called "being a hipster" and "complaining about selling out" and then talking about how "you were into before it was popular".


Has anyone ever complained about Neutral Milk Hotel selling out? No. They haven't released an album in over fifteen years and were not popular when they did release it.

How many people said that they were into Neutral Milk Hotel before they were popular? Well considering no one listened to them back in 1998, I bet the number is very small. And if you knew of them back them and saw them live, kudos to you.

But really, I've spent too much time engaging a sneering and trite comment.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:34 AM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Aeroplane Over the Sea is definitely one of those things that I feel guilty about not liking. I've tried and just can't listen to it all the way through but if so many people love it, maybe the failure is mine and not the record's.
posted by octothorpe at 4:44 AM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


My children had a serious existential crisis years before their birth when their mother was introduced to "Aeroplane" and said "meh".
posted by dozo at 4:50 AM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I like Neutral Milk Hotel and similar bands, especially for driving music, and can't stand DFW's writing. You can deny me any hipster credibility I suppose, but people are also allowed to pick and choose their pleasures without it always being a major identity marker.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:37 AM on June 26, 2015


Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler and Sean Penn in The Gunman are the same film.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:53 AM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


People are possessive of the art that finds them when they're most receptive.
posted by echocollate at 5:58 AM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Aeroplane Over the Sea is definitely one of those things that I feel guilty about not liking. I've tried and just can't listen to it all the way through but if so many people love it, maybe the failure is mine and not the record's.

This. I keep trying, and I can never get past "this album has a few solid singles, but otherwise, meh". I'm thrilled that the people who love it love it that much, but I've never felt it myself. I have other albums that make me feel the way it seems like NMH is supposed to make me feel (Hawaii Part II, oh my god), and plenty of other people don't really feel them.

Maybe it has to do with when you first hear it? I was 20 when I first heard Aeroplane, and most of the people I know who love it the most are ones who first heard it when they were in high school. Maybe it's one of those things that, if you hear it at the right time and place in your life, it puts down serious roots, but if you miss that window it's gone.
posted by Itaxpica at 6:17 AM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The most undoing of these, as on Astral Weeks, is also the simplest: it is just that in the contest between your love and death – in the battle that pits your ardor and your fear, your courage and your bliss, against the all-devouring force of dying – you lose. Always. And forever.

Oh for so many reasons is this resonating with me today. It's a beautiful piece of writing, worth the read. Thoughtful and passionate and self-deprecating and full of love for his stepdaughters. Thank you for posting.
posted by billiebee at 6:18 AM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, bonus round: In My G4 Over Da Sea
posted by Itaxpica at 6:18 AM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is a really amazing piece of writing.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:21 AM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's more about art which you feel is speaking directly and profoundly to you.

I def. get what you're saying. I listened to NMH for years, developing an incredibly personal relationship with this music which sounded nothing like I'd ever heard before, before encountering other people who liked them. The idea that they were this incredibly beloved band by scores of people came as an absolute shock when I finally started hanging out with people who did not consider them straight-up awful and unlistenable-to.
posted by griphus at 7:05 AM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've listened to Neutral Milk Hotel once before, and I just listened to it again. It reminds me more of Syd Barret than it does of anything Van Morrison has done. It's also kind of repetitive and just not that interesting, which I would never say about Syd Barret or Van Morrison.
posted by inthe80s at 7:16 AM on June 26, 2015


I loved this piece, but for me, after listening to Astral Weeks, if it comes to me to listen to something other than another Van Morrison album, or maybe some Nick Drake, and if it comes to me to listen to something newer, like maybe Beck's Mutations, then it comes to me that I should listen to Death Cab For Cutie's "Plans," or maybe "Transatlanticism" too. Too many commas. I know.
posted by kneecapped at 8:34 AM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


convinced that you and no one else uniquely understands what is being communicated
Ah yeah, the omnipresent ego of the teenage mind.

Holy shit, is this what that is, just a series of appearances by my inner angsty goth teenager? Because I feel a constant pull toward the shores of "pretty sure no one Really Gets It like I am Really Getting It right now" and I've never understood where it comes from.

For me, it's less a sense of my own specialness or uniqueness than it is a sense that I've stumbled across a fraction of an emotional puzzle piece under a corner of the carpet in my brain and want to bring it to the people in the band like a cat proudly presenting its human mom or dad with the gift of a half-dismembered mouse. "This might be weird, guys, and if it is I'm real sorry, but I only found this because of you, it's very important to me and I want to give it to you for all that you've given me... do you want it?" And sometimes they do.

Sometimes artists are so happy, if not downright desperate, to be so unabashedly recognized as mapmakers and guiding lights in a total stranger's life. Sometimes it's all they want from their own life. Sometimes they glow and revel in hearing you talk about how profoundly their art changed the way you see the world, how it brought you impossible comfort in your darkest hours, even outright saved you, how it breaks your heart and stitches it together over and over again, how it makes you feel kinda funny, like when you used to climb the rope in gym class, how it surrounds you and makes you think you're safer and more loved than you've ever been in your life, how you listened to their record so many times that it coalesced into windows and floors and walls and doors and built the only home you've ever had. Sometimes they tell you that you're the only person who's ever said anything like that to them; sometimes it makes them get choked up with emotion and gratitude; sometimes they thank you right back. It's generous and life-changing and the best drug in the world. A manifestation of grace.
It's hard, I mean, not to want them to encounter enough of the world to fall in reckless blazing love with it and, also, to know nothing of loneliness or sorrow or unedifying pain. Or no more than they do already.

Put a hope like that into words and it reads like the nonsense, the category error, it is. But songs make for a different kind of wishing. They do different work.
So yeah. I love this piece as if it were mine own [step]child... it really is just so goddamn beautiful. I had no idea how much I needed to read it at this particular juncture in my life and there's absolutely no way I would have seen it without this FPP, so many thanks to Pete Coviello for writing it and to maupuia for sharing it with us here.
posted by divined by radio at 8:54 AM on June 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


I was wondering about the Dryden quote and it lead to a footnote indicating that it might be a misattribution.
posted by bdc34 at 10:02 AM on June 26, 2015


Also, bonus round: In My G4 Over Da Sea

OMG. That is so terribly great. It reminds me of someone trying to imitate Girl Talk poorly while they forgot they had NMH playing in the background.

My life is better for hearing this. Thank you.
posted by mayonnaises at 11:43 AM on June 26, 2015


Here's my snark contribution:

For all the author's talk about college being such a halcyon and bygone era, his mixtape at the end sure reads a lot like a third year university student's, complete with the semi-ironic "assist" from Justin Bieber. Jesus, if this person likes music so much, shouldn't their taste go a little deeper than your normal indie bands? I mean, I bet in the pile of songs almost included but not quite are ones by Arcade Fire and Sufjan Stevens.
posted by wyndham at 12:41 PM on June 26, 2015


I heard Aeroplane the first time 10 years ago or so, and it was one of those albums I hear once and think, 'this is a fucking masterpiece.' And, now that I think about it, AW was the same way.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:45 PM on June 26, 2015


Ohhhh, one of his other articles is about the Yankees. I get it now.
posted by wyndham at 12:46 PM on June 26, 2015


« Older "...and I realized that it was a really beautiful...   |   I Live My Life Like There's No Tomorrow Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments