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Forever Presents ...

The MAGNETIC FIELDS
Dublin Show added to 2008 European Tour
::: LIVE ::: Vicar Street, Dublin - July 8, 2008
€33.00 inc booking fee - Tickets will be on sale starting Friday, April 18 through Ticketmaster
More Info on www.foreverpresents.ie ~ www.houseoftomorrow.com

New Album: "DISTORTION"
Out Now on Nonesuch Records (Warner Music)


‘The NYC industro-showtune geniuses return with another masterpiece, this time sounding like Psychocandy: The Musical.’ NME

The Magnetic Fields’ new album Distortion was released in January by Nonesuch Records. The band’s eighth album, and second Nonesuch release, is a follow-up to 2004’s critically acclaimed i, an album whose songs all began with the letter ‘i’, and whose sound Magnetic Fields songwriter and frontman Stephin Merritt has referred to as “self-consciously soft rock”. Distortion is both a departure from and a response to i: an album of three-minute power-pop songs, composed and produced by Merritt and co-sung by Merritt and his longtime friend Shirley Simms. [Simms also sang on Merritt’s 1999 opus, 69 Love Songs.] Distortion features the single, ‘California Girls’

On Distortion, every instrument (except the drums) was made to purposely feed back, creating a distorted ambient roar that informs this album’s sound. “I don’t know if anyone has done feedback piano before,” Merritt explains. “The whole record has feedback acoustic piano. We put the amplifier directly up against the frame of the piano and turned it up enough to start feeding back.” The album also features feedback guitar, feedback cello, and even feedback accordion."

Distortion may startle those fans of Merritt’s who are more used to his quieter approach on the last Magnetic Fields album, but he is quick to point out that his decade-plus career has produced a wide range of styles. He jokes, “Many of my rock-oriented fans refused to buy any record called Showtunes,” referring to his 2006 compilation of songs from his work with Chinese theatre director Chen Shi-Zheng, and adds; “So this one is for them.”

The initial inspiration for Distortion was the upfront metal-machine drone and submerged Ronettes romanticism of Jesus And Mary Chain’s 1985 post-punk landmark Psychocandy. Merritt takes that concept a step further, radically altering the entire sound of his chamber-pop ensemble (cellist Sam Davol, pianist Claudia Gonson, and lead guitarist John Woo, plus Daniel Handler on accordion). His goal was “to sound more like Jesus and Mary Chain than Jesus and Mary Chain.”

The Magnetic Fields will perform a series of short residencies in several American cities to support Distortion, however they will not bring the feedback on the road, to protect themselves from hearing damage. Merritt states: “We make records that can’t be duplicated live, and then we go out and do it completely differently.”

In 1999, the Magnetic Fields’ three-CD collection 69 Love Songs established Stephin Merritt as one of this generation’s most talented songwriters, and their most recent album, i, followed in 2004. Merritt has also released numerous other albums with his bands Future Bible Heroes, the Gothic Archies, and the 6ths, as well as soundtracks to the films Eban and Charley and Pieces of April, the theatre album Showtunes, and a record of songs to accompany the popular Lemony Snicket books, entitled The Gothic Archies: The Tragic Treasury: Songs from a Series of Unfortunate Events (all on Nonesuch).

Tracklisting:


1. Three-Way
2. California Girls
3. Old Fools
4. Xavier Says
5. Mr Mistletoe
6. Please Stop Dancing
7. Drive On, Driver
8. Too Drunk To Dream
9. Till The Bitter End
10. I’ll Dream Alone
11. The Nun’s Litany
12. Zombie Boy
13. Courtesans

 
 
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MAGNETIC FIELDS - Biography

‘Three-Way’, the opening song on Distortion, introduces, in a deceptively exuberant blast of pop noise, the themes and obsessions of Magnetic Fields’ eighth album. The lyrics simply consist of gleefully repeated exclamations, by male and female voices, of the song title. While ‘Three-Way’ may summon images of Twister-like physical exertions in a situation where three is not a crowd, the subsequent material describes scenarios in which desire itself is twisted into dark, alluring shapes and love remains tantalizingly unrequited. Using a modest number of instruments, composer and producer Stephin Merritt creates a veritable wall of sound. He employs no synthesizers; instead, he generates waves of feedback that envelop every track like a spiky black gift-wrapping.

“I wanted to make a record of three-minute pop songs, then they turned into three-minute power-pop songs,” Merritt explains. “The previous Magnetic Fields record had been self-consciously soft rock, with all the songs starting with the letter ‘i’. The idea here was to make this record quickly and use the same instrumentation on every song. And if I had to use the same instrumentation all the time, what would I want it to sound like? Well, like the first Jesus and Mary Chain album! So I attempted to adapt the sound of Psychocandy to the orch-pop reality of the Magnetic Fields, where we have a pianist and a cellist. And the occasional accordionist."

The upfront metal-machine drone and submerged Ronettes romanticism of Psychocandy made that Scottish quartet’s sullenly beautiful 1985 debut a post-punk landmark. Merritt set out to take that concept a step further, radically altering the entire sound of his chamber-pop ensemble - cellist Sam Davol, pianist Claudia Gonson, and lead guitarist John Woo, plus Daniel Handler on accordion.

“We wanted to sound more like Jesus and Mary Chain than Jesus and Mary Chain,” Merritt explains. “I don’t know if anyone has ever done feedback piano before, but the whole record has feedback piano. We put the amplifier directly up against the frame of the piano and turned it up enough to start feeding back. I went out and bought all these cigarette-case amplifiers and taped them to the guitar so that the amplifier became part of the instrument - we rubber-banded them together so they vibrated against each other as well as vibrating the guitar. We couldn’t get the accordion to technically feed back but we did put a cigarette-case amplifier on the bellows.”

Only the drums, also played by Gonson, were left au naturel: “We set up the drums in the hallway of my old apartment at London Terrace,” says the long-time Manhattan resident, who recently relocated to Los Angeles. “Since I was moving out, it was suddenly okay to make more noise. The enormous boom sound of the drums is actually real. The reverb you hear on the drums comes from that tiled hallway and a seventeen-story stairwell.”

Merritt had anticipated doing all the lead vocals himself, but after the songs were finished he decided to re-enlist Shirley Simms, a featured performer on Magnetic Fields’ 1999 magnum opus 69 Love Songs, to take turns fronting these tracks with him and to trade verses on ‘Please Stop Dancing’. “My voice just isn’t pop enough, so I decided to have Shirley sing half the record. Shirley’s voice is as pop as it gets,” says Merritt.


This bifurcated approach to the vocals underscores the humour and drama in Merritt’s songs, which depict self-delusional characters whose romantic despair is so extreme it somehow becomes ennobling. Simms brings a plaintive quality to a woman glaring with murderous intent at skinny, surgically enhanced arm candy on ‘California Girls’, a cutting spiel delivered with a subversive Beach Boys breeziness, and she imbues a kind of a girlish innocence to ‘The Nun’s Litany’, a detailed erotic wish-list from a closet libertine. Merritt himself delivers the woozy, closing time confessions of the sing-along-worthy ‘Too Drunk Too Dream’. [Merritt admits, “It’s in 6/8 time and in a major key and it’s kind of up-tempo, but it’s not a happy lyric. It’s pretty tragic really.” His brooding baritone on ‘Mr. Mistletoe’, in which an abandoned lover finds betrayal in every holiday decoration on snowy city streets, recalls his more tongue-in-cheek performance on the 2006 Gothic Archies disc, The Tragic Treasury, a collaboration with Lemony Snicket author/accordionist Handler. And he makes the narrator of ‘Zombie Boy’, who reanimates the dead to do his romantic bidding, seem almost like a practical sort of guy. The concluding track, ‘Courtesans’, sung by Simms to a stark arrangement of fuzzed-out guitar and clanking percussion, suggests that we might all be better off if sex were simply an elegant transaction and love never entered the equation. We’d almost believe her were it not for that melancholy tug in her voice.

The sound of Distortion may be startling for some fans of Merritt’s wide-ranging oeuvre. He jokes, “Many of my rock-oriented fans refused to buy any record called Showtunes,” Merritt’s 2006 compilation of songs from his work with Chinese theatre director Chen Shi-Zheng, “so this one is for them.” But Distortion was also something of a revelation to Merritt himself: “I had bought an MC5 greatest hits album a while ago and only just realized that I hadn’t listened to it. I turned it on and - oh my God, it sounds like my new record!” Magnetic Fields intend to perform a series of short residencies in several American cities to support Distortion, but don’t expect it to sound much like the album: “We make records that can’t be duplicated live, and then we go out and do it completely differently. We only play in theatrical venues where the red velvet chairs remind people to be quiet.”

Merritt has long suffered from hearing problems that prevent him from cranking up the amps when he performs. He says, “All of the other people involved in making this record understand what everything sounds like to me if it’s too loud. If I listen to the Carpenters at a really loud volume, suddenly they sound like the Jesus and Mary Chain.” But it was texture - not outright volume - that inspired Merritt on Distortion.

“This is my most commercial record in a way,” he concludes. “Some audience members may be completely and immediately turned off but, I figure, if you find it too loud, just turn it down and it will sound quite pretty.”

- Michael Hill

MAGNETIC FIELDS
NEW ALBUM: DISTORTION
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY


‘The first great album of ’08. Stephin Merritt [is] the photofit ‘musical genius’. Relentlessly prolific, acerbically witty and ardently inventive. It’s Merritt’s skills in weaving such hook-smothered wryness between moving pop epics that lifts him on to a higher stratosphere than anyone working in alternative pop today. Purest, starkest genius. 8/10.’ NME

‘Beguiling and quietly devastating.’ Uncut – Albums of the month

‘Imagine Sondheim produced by Phil Spector and Kevin Shields, and you'll get some idea of how strange and singular a project this is. * * * *’ Independent

‘Bubblegum melodies in a bouquet of barbed wire. It’s faux-naïf orch-pop that crashes and thunders. The flavour is that of Ronnie Spector stepping out with Oscar Wilde. Brilliant! * * * *’ Mojo

‘A lovely addition to the noisy canon and a barbed new year tonic.’ Observer – CD of the week

‘This is lo-fi indie rock with a show-stopping allure and, when its final notes slip away, it keeps you hanging on. * * * *’ Metro – Album of the week

‘As the fuzz roars and its tunes chime distantly like a broken musical box, ‘Distortion’ exudes the carefree air of being pleasantly wankered. * * * *’ Time Out

‘A gorgeous snow-globe of a record.’ The Word

‘It would be off the mark to describe Distortion as a musical experiment when the songs shine through so effortlessly. * * * *‘ Scotsman – CD of the week

‘Noisy, but nice. * * * *’ London Paper

‘A weirdly enjoyable snowstorm of noise, melody and bubblegum pop. Great fun.’ The Times

‘As heartbreaking and hilarious a collection of Pop ditties as you’ll hear this year.’ Gay Times

‘Beneath the fuzz these songs still have a distinct whiff of the Great White Way; 'California Girls' and 'Too Drunk to Dream' stand out, classic tirades of Merritt’s bitter wit.’ Observer Music Monthly

‘Stephin Merritt, the gay universe’s finest songwriter’s songwriter. Perfect for anyone who’s only happy when it rains. * * * *’ Attitude

‘Majestic.’ ShortList

‘A surprisingly lovely album, meticulously orchestrated to allow pretty melodies to escape their skuzzy surroundings.’ London Lite

‘A 39-minute masterclass in literate synth alchemy from
pop’s Frasier Crane
. * * * *’ The Fly

‘The sound is so gorgeous that resistance is futile. * * * *’ Record Collector

PRAISE FOR STEPHIN MERRITT AND
THE MAGNETIC FIELDS



‘An incomparable lyricist capable of balancing arch wit with painfully acute observation… The most exciting dissector of modern love around.’ Guardian

‘Merritt’s effortlessly turned couplets elevate the dissatisfactions and discomforts of loving into an art form.’ Telegraph Magazine

'A pinch of Cole Porter, a dash of Neil Tennant, then liquidise with a sloosh of Oscar Wilde and Morrissey.’ Mojo

'Perhaps the last songwriter to depict love as it really is.' Independent

‘Peerless.’ NME

‘Stephin Merritt, the gay universe’s finest songwriter’s songwriter.’ Attitude

‘Merritt’s rare, and very queer, talent, makes him a master of the modern pop song.’ Independent On Sunday

‘Gay parlour pop with nothing to declare but its genius.’ Q

‘The great bard of Manhattan.’ Observer Music Monthly

‘Merritt is a latter-day Irving Berlin, crafting wry, elegant, deceptively dark love songs.’ Big Issue

‘Merritt’s flair for a sharp couplet and a winning melody is undiminished. One of the most affecting songwriters around.’ Evening Standard

‘Merritt’s way with melody and a mannered lyric work their bittersweet magic right from the opening line and sustain the emotional tone throughout.’ Time Out

‘Merritt is among our very sharpest chroniclers of the human heart.’ Empire


 
 
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