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CD Review: Magnetic Fields



The Deal: Stephin Merritt and Magnetic Fields go Psychocandy ...

The Good: Truth in advertising here, because Distortion eschews the breezy pop of early Magnetic Fields and the somnambulant soft-rock of 2004's i, going for the jugular instead by coating everything but the drums in mountainous feedback. Overtly inspired by The Jesus and Mary Chain's seminal 1985 release, Psychocandy, Merritt's impeccable melodies and sunny arrangements still form a foundation of sorts. But along with the obvious choice of John Woo's lead guitar, the rest is cut with enough noise to sound like J&MC and Phil Spector's Ronettes run through some cheap car radio with partially blown speakers. Audiophiles may cringe, but there's something satisfying in the contrast. That's especially true when Merritt and 69 Love Songs contributor Shirley Simms sing their devilishly snarky lyrics, reminding us that love may swing between the tragic and glorious, but it's mostly ridiculous. That sentiment permeates the songs, most memorably on "Too Drunk to Dream" – "Oh, sober, you're a Cro-Magnon/Shitfaced, you're very clever/Sober you never should be/Shitfaced, now and forever" – and "California Girls," where Simms voices the darkest desires of 49 other states' women: "I will stand behind their backs/With my brand-new battle ax/Then will they taste my wrath ... I hate California girls."

The Bad: All that distortion is impressive, but after a 40-minute onslaught you'll probably wish Merritt would've parceled it out a little more judiciously.

The Verdict: Not as groundbreaking or dark as Psychocandy, but if that sound appeals, it's here in spades.

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