neutral milk hotel

There’s that sound again. It’s frequent enough that it no longer surprises, barely registers a complaint, save for the fact that it’s so constant. In line for coffee, floating just above the whirr of espresso machine, the six-string strum and adenoidal vocals. . .

“When you werrrre young yoou werre the keeeng of carrot floooowwwwweerrrrs”

Or perhaps it’s this one:

“The ownlee girl I’ve ever laaahhhvved/was born with rosez in herr eeyyyyyyyyyyes”

And my countenance drops, my ability to be a friendly, communicative customer disappears. Because I’ve been hearing this record in public places for the last twenty years in the Northwest, and I propose we give it a rest. That’s right: let’s let coffee shops, “mellow” bars, and even KEXP take a four year break from Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane Over The Sea.”

I feel qualified to suggest this because for a long time it was one of my favorite albums. For a little while it WAS my favorite album. So while there’s plenty of music I hear out that I’ve maybe never cared for, or never had a personal connection to, I love(d) this weird, dark record about war and sex and Anne Frank and semen-staining mountaintop and boys with multiple heads.

But despite a couple relatively accessible tracks (title track, the two mentioned above) this is not chill, public space, coffeeshop music. It’s deeply personal, emotionally complex, and artistically challenging music. It’s. . . sigh. . . Art. Can a record be both? Definitely. Arguably most festival-level indie rock from about 2007-2013 seemed dead set on proving that point. There’s a lot of similar artists one could complain about similar types of overexposure.

But the difference, in my scientifically infallible opinion, is almost all those bands go away. Postal Service were inescapable for years following their debut, then they disappeared. Then their record got rediscovered, and the great cycle of casual music fandom for service workers continued. Same with pretty much any band or record, following a two-ten year cycle of love, obscurity, rediscovery.

But not “In the Aeroplane.” So I say we make it mandatory for public spaces to eschew it for four years. Go ahead, listen to it in private. In your friend’s car. Furtively, after hours, like one of the record’s protagonists breaking any number of taboos. But Seattle at large needs a break.

The only other record that has persisted in such an annoying fashion that I can think of belongs to Weezer, and you REALLY don’t want to know what I think about them.