I would like the preface this review by saying that I am not the type to follow the “next big thing” bandwagon in favor of going deep into left field to find, or sometimes create, my own interests and tastes. But ever so often, something comes along that has a small, growing, and devoted “cult” following that is revered like gospel among it’s fans makes it’s way to my lap and completely changes my look on life, as is the case with Neutral Milk Hotel’s final album In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. This release by Athens, Georgia based indie-rock darlings Neutral Milk Hotel, and follow up to their self-titled debut, On Avery Island, is one of the most interesting and auspicious “concept” albums I have ever heard. The album does not so much follow a continual story or overlapping existential theme, such as Pink Floyd’s The Wall or Gorillaz Plastic Beach, this album is more or less a collage of ideas and images that fantastically overlap to create of the most awe-inspiring albums ever released.
Despite frequent subconscious references to the unfortunate story of Anne Frank, descriptions of two-headed boys, communism, and semen-coated mountain tops implies an Eraserhead-esque atmosphere that not only emotionally captivates you but mentally scars you. The instrumentation also plays a huge role in this albums metamorphosis from indie cult classic to genre defining album. Jeff Mangum’s high, nasally voice and simple guitar strumming hearken back to the days of Bob Dylan while every conceivable instrument provides accompaniment. Never before in contemporary music has an album needed to be played all the way through to get the full effect of what the creative forces are trying to convey. Everything, from the opening acoustic on King of Carrot Flowers Part 1 to Mangum setting his guitar down and walking away on my favorite song on the album, and possibly of all time, Two Headed Boy Part 2, even today I am still hearing things that I have never heard on previous listens. If you are a musician, fan of underground music, music in general, or are jaded of the Top 40 rock bands of the day, do yourself a huge favor and find this mind-bending, heart-warming, and tear-jerking LP.