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Throwback Thursday

August 5, 2010

It’s been a while, but today seems appropriate.

I spoke on the phone with Max Heath, relevant to this project for the thesis he wrote on In the Aeroplane Over the Sea while he was an undergrad at Wesleyan Univristy, a piece was eventually published at Glorious Noise. Before clicking, you should know that it’s super long. When Heath turned it in, it was 61 pages without appendices (and 76 pages with them), more than twice the requirement. But it’s definitely worth reading in full, even if you have to put aside a few reading sessions to get it done.

In general, I’m not going to include much critical content in this book. For one thing, there aren’t many reviews to be found about anything other than Neutral Milk Hotel stuff, and the majority of those reviews say the same things: simple folk chords, obscure lyrics, fuzzy production, unusual arrangements, etc. There’s value in taking them as a whole for some kind of consensus or pointing to the dearth of them to show how some albums were largely ignored, but I haven’t found too many reviews that are worth mentioning for their own particular value. If you know anything about music reviews, this shouldn’t be a surprise. And I say this as someone who has written hundreds of them.

But I will definitely be including bits from Heath’s piece, as well as some things from our interview. It’s not just some guy with a web site comparing everything to Pavement or whatever. This is serious academic stuff, with real actual analysis going on. There’s simply nothing like it for anything else Elephant 6. I strongly implore you to at least skim it.

Beyond the critical value of Heath’s thesis, the piece also illustrates a key point I’ve made many times before: the influence of Neutral Milk Hotel and the other Elephant 6 bands. Say what you will about their commercial impact, but it’s a rare band that can inspire a 60-page thesis, let alone one so excellent. To further this point, Heath said that despite listening to Aeroplane intensively (and we’re talking spending hours listening to one 10-second spurt) for almost a year, it’s still one of his favorite albums and one he listens to regularly, and although he probably has a clearer understanding of the record than anyone who never attended an Elephant 6 pot luck, there’s still a ton of stuff that mystifies him.

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