This morning I had the full intention of writing about Jazz legend Chick Corea’s upcoming performance at Dimitrious Jazz Alley this weekend. But by the afternoon music’s most idolized ghost fully materialized for the first time after fifteen years. With the announcement of a reunion tour Neutral Milk Hotel is about to fulfill countless music lovers unspoken dream of actually seeing this legendary apparition live.
Frankly, I don’t necessarily know how to articulate how massive this announcement truly is. I imagine that if you were to walk into any local coffee shop or dive bar and start screaming “ I LOVE YOU JESSSUUUSSS CHRIST!” at least one hipster will scream “JESSUSS CHRIST I LOVE YOU YEAH I DOOO!” right back at you. Though they never received any public airplay or tangible accommodations for their work, NMH’s musical influence is virtually ubiquitous throughout contemporary music. It is a testament to their legacy that even after a 15 year recording and touring hiatus their music has never been more popular. There is a simple answer to why they have maintained such a massive cult following and critical admiration, NMH sounds nothing like anything you have ever heard or ever will hear.
Within the first minute of listening to either “On Avery Island” or the legendary “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea“ it’s impossible not to recognize that your listening to not only something very unique, but very special. No other artist since the days of early folk music has had the capacity to capture utter emotional rawness and depravity like Jeff Mangum and NMH. His voice is as abrasive as his lyrics but they both coalesce to convey a poignancy and candidness not seen since. His lyrics crush you and force you to visualize both utter horror and incredible beauty almost simultaneously. The musical accompaniment creates a timeless atmosphere, transporting the listener into a bygone era where music was simple and pure bereft of any production distractions that could allow the listener to hide from what Mangum wants to convey. Ultimately listening to a NMH album is a cathartic experience that will wipe you clean and leave you emotionally exhausted.
This emotional exhaustion felt by a listener was amplified a thousand fold for Mangum who was the principle body behind the entire band. His exhaustion and disenchantment with the band and music in general led to him becoming music’s favorite recluse. His existence was reduced to some whispers of sightings and unannounced acoustic performances. However, last year Mangum permanently came out of hiding with his announcement that he would perform an acoustic set at Coachella. Mangum’s appearance and willingness to play his hollowed musical contributions gave rise to dreams that NMH might be resurrected. Today those dreams have been realized and NMH will return to the touring circuit. Five tour dates have been announced with reportedly more to come. However as of now unless your willing to grab a plane ticket to Taipei or Tokyo, you might have to wait to catch the resurrection of music’s most mythical ghost.