Saturday September 15, 2001

This isn't something that's exactly in the forefront of my life right now, (having had my rather fanatical stage burn down slightly), but just last night I had my friend Dave listen to "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel and he went ape-shit over it. "Genius, fucking incredible, hey, lemme see the CD case, why hasn't this sold billions?"

This thing came out 3 or 4 years ago, it's obscure and that can be a problem, but so is this web page. I don't know, I guessing that at this point if you haven't loved it you probably don't care, but I couldn't care less if you don't care, I'm going to write about it. Because it's important. This is music criticism....yawn...but I'm going to try to make it worth your while -- even if you decide not to devote your life to Neutral Milk Hotel.

This disc brings music critics (who, remember, are professional music appreciators) to their knees, not just in admiration of it but in humility. I can hear in their voice the naked insignificance and impotence before the task of describing this work of art. Is it possible to say that it's the most important popular music recording of the last 10 years? Probably. 20? 30 years? Important because of the responsibility one feels upon hearing it. For what it means to each person -- what it can do to you; not what it stands for, or how many teenage hair-dye jobs it inspired.

Sometimes critics rave about the rare vocal talent or how he blends distant musical styles or they quote a chunk of his lyrics in an attempt to give you flavor. They cannot give you're the shock to the system that hearing this music will. They, (well maybe they can) will not be able to make you cry like this music can. You cannot resist it. The music will nuzzle up against your fear and enchant your confused postmodern brain.

You have to be a seeker. If you're not looking for it you won't find it. Seekers know that they may not know they've found it when they do. Most people think they're seekers but they're waiters, waiting to be shown things. I think I can tell the difference between people (it has nothing to do with how many CD's you buy). Can you recognize when art is affecting you (even in the tiniest way) and harness that interest and let it drag you into a deeper appreciation? It's a rookie mistake to judge people by whether they like a piece of art. Gotta watch that, but it's hard not to judge a person by their reaction to Neutral Milk Hotel -- really hard.

Do you have to be a college educated upper-class artistic white person to like this music? I don't know many people that aren't like that. But I would like to know the demographics. One thing's for sure, it's not a big seller. And I'm not prepared to dismiss it if it turns out that it has no reach beyond that class of people.

Know this: if you think it's all hopeless and everything that our culture is trying to shove down your throat is vomitous; this thing remains. It's there. I can tell you that there is a sustained piece of genius, a marker that you can point to, that came out in the late 90's proving that it can still happen. This one thing is all I need to keep hope alive. No, it's not even hope, it's assuredness. (Pretentiousness needle entering the red zone)

The Zen Guerrilla show at the Bottom of the Hill last night taught me that we need to rejoice. If you have no hope the first step is to rejoice and be thankful for what you do have. You have Neutral Milk Hotel. Take a little bit and rejoice that you have that.

voyeurs of the world, give something back!

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