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The Magnetic Fields - Distortion

For those unfamiliar with The Magnetic Fields it’s the ideal place to start; for the more obsessive, it’s the continuation of something quite brilliant.

When The Magnetic Fields call their album ‘Distortion’, you feel you ought to take that literally, as they have that Ronseal Woodstain habit of doing exactly what it say on the album cover. ‘69 Love Songs’, the majestic three-disc concept album that is as detailed an analysis of love as anything by Plato, is exactly that; while ‘i’ comprises 14 songs whose titles all begin with the letter ‘I’ or involve the first-person.

And ‘Distortion’, arriving four years after ‘i’, is indeed an album of 13 distorted songs, but done in their own attractive and charming way. Indeed, the idea of distortion isn’t entirely about sound.

Think Jesus and Mary Chain-cum-broad church like acoustics for the majority of the record, and you wouldn’t be too far away. Even so, ‘Three-Way’ and ‘Please Stop Dancing’ are as close as you’ll come to distortion in a foot slammed down onto a distortion pedal sense.

With excitable chants of ‘Three-Way!’ popping up amongst echoic piano and choppy guitar, if this is Stephin Merritt et al’s musical depiction of a threesome, then it’s extremely enjoyable indeed. It’s a bit filthy, but the twinkly piano and vibrant shouts bring with it a sense of deluded innocence.

Meanwhile, ‘Please Stop Dancing’ is surrounded by thumping toms and heavy-yet-muted guitar. Claudia Gonson and Merritt play some sort disenfranchised couple who can’t get along, yet each obsessive figure in one another’s thoughts. Definitely a song immersed in strange paradoxes, perhaps distorted - heavy but mute, hate and obsession.

‘Too Drunk To Dream’ reeks of foul language, charm and wistfulness, and is irresistible. It’s an ode to using alcohol to escape from the pains of real-life, where sobriety brings with it pain and heartache, while being rat-faced results in intelligence and a satisfying lack of responsibility. Definitely distorted, and we can all empathise.

What is most obvious with ‘Distortion’ is that the broad, echoic sound in no way hinders the Fields’ pop sensibilities. On the contrary, the spacious sound enhances their catchy melodies so much that you struggle to shake them off. You become somewhat like a character in ‘Please Stop Dancing’, except the plaguing of your thoughts via song is of course most welcome.

‘Distortion’ is no ‘69 Love Songs’, but it’s just as captivating, and anyone could fall for its distorted charm. For those unfamiliar with The Magnetic Fields it’s the ideal place to start; for the more obsessive, it’s the continuation of something quite brilliant.

Tags: The Magnetic Fields, Reviews, Album Reviews

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