Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Merritt's Multiple Tracks: A New Magnetic Fields Album and an Opera Are Just a Few of the New Projects for Composer Stephin Merritt

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Merritt's Multiple Tracks: A New Magnetic Fields Album and an Opera Are Just a Few of the New Projects for Composer Stephin Merritt

Article excerpt

Most stars have obstructionist managers and other hangers-on to protect them from the world. Stephin Merritt has Irving Berlin. To get to Merritt, the out, 30-something cult songwriter whose 1999 CD 69 Love Songs brought him instant acclaim in both pop music and the experimental theater world, you have to know and love Berlin first. Not necessarily the composer, whom Merrill cites as a musical and conceptual influence--but Merritt's cocky and fiercely loyal white Chihuahua.

After I charmed my way past the beast with a hunk of beef jerky into Merritt's apartment-cum-recording studio in Manhattan's Chelsea district, we three settled down to listen to i, the seventh and latest album from Merritt's band the Magnetic Fields. It marks the combo's first release on Nonesuch, home to such eccentrics as Randy Newman, Laurie Anderson, and the great Stephen Sondheim.

Merritt is happy to be among such major-label, nonrock peers; even though most of his own catalog (under the banner of the Magnetic Fields, the Gothic Archies, and Future Bible Heroes) is found on indie-rock labels, be never saw the need to be that stereotypical indie-rock purist. "I've already done lots of music that isn't rock," he protests, adding that he thought rock died in 1985 with Jesus and Mary Chain's Psychocandy. "And I have at least two albums on major labels--the 6ths [yet another Merrill incarnation] were on London--so I don't feel like I was ever in the indie-rock ghetto."

Though Love Songs tackled synth-pop, punk, psychedelic pop, country, Broadway, and vaudeville stylings, Merrill held his talent for pastiche in check for his long-awaited follow-up. "I was trying to make a soft-rock record," he explains, "but since I don't sound exactly like Roberta Flack, it didn't really come out soft-rock." What emerges is a sort of postmodern cabaret, including twisted lyrical gems such as "I'm Tongue-Tied" and "In an Operetta," the tragic ballads "I Looked All Over Town" and "Infinitely Late at Night," and an unprecedented excursion (for Merritt) into house music, "I Thought You Were My Boyfriend. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.