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Jeff Mangum at One Eyed Jacks


Every time I go back to Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, I find something new and astonishing in it. (This is, I think, as good a definition of great art as any other.) Years ago, on first listens, it was the sheer timbre of the thing: harsh and unvarnished, as if each sound is scraping up against another — familiar guitars, banjos, accordions, horns and drums, but also quivering saws, uilleann pipes, ersatz zanzithophones and that voice — reedy, harried and charged — the most foreign and mournful instrument of all. Next came the structures of the songs, which turn global folk music on its ear (Balkan dirges, Irish bellows, American punk rock); and then the lyrics buried inside, a worrisome dossier of wonder and pain, transference and deliverance (insert any of a dozen imagined and recurring birth/sex/death memories here: "Sweet communist, the communist daughter/ Standing on the seaweed water/ Semen stains the mountaintops"). Today, it's this couplet, from the title track (of an album influenced by Anne Frank's diary), so tidy and still in service of a million mysteries: "And now we keep where we don't know/ All secrets sleep in winter clothes." Anne Frank was born June 12, 1929, in Frankfurt, Germany. She died in March 1945. Jeff Mangum was born on Oct. 24, 1970, in Ruston, La. He is not dead yet. Tall Firs opens. Tickets $28. — Noah Bonaparte Pais

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