Long awaited release falls short

The Magnetic Fields’ Distortion comes after quite a wait. The last album the band released, i, came to us in 2004. With four years to craft their new album, you might expect something extremely polished and crisp, but the time was spent doing exactly the opposite. The title, Distortion, is a not-so-subtle way of describing the theme for this album. In a vein quite different than their previous work, this album is gritty and dirty with tons of droning distortion behind every single track. The main body of this band, Stephin Merritt, is always pressing a concept into these albums. His goal on this one was to make music reminiscent of The Jesus and Mary Chain circa Psychocandy. So how does a band whose best asset is lyrical creativity do over such strong noise? I can tell you this: The good moments are great. Tracks like “Too Drunk to Dream” and “The Nun’s Litany” allocate Merritt’s unique songwriting ability in the best way, and, as always, the vocal quality on all the songs is beautiful and melodic. In some cases, these tunes are showcased appropriately, and in more somber tracks such as “Till the Bitter End,” the Jesus and Mary Chain effect is certainly fitting and successful. But over the drone of distortion, some of these tracks are decidedly boring. The focus that was always given to lyrics and instrumentation is lost, and the noise washes the music out. It disappoints me to find any Magnetic Fields music boring, but without anything to focus on, certain tracks drag. You may need to skip a few tracks, but don’t skip Distortion altogether — its successes do outweigh its failings.

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