Love At The Bottom Of The Sea

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Album number 10 from The Magnetic Fields sees a welcome return to the vaguely electro sounds mostly missing from their more recent releases and as a pastiche of 80’s and 90’s lo-fi pop it could be argued that the album is successful. So it is unfortunate then that after the confident first track "God Wants Us To Wait" the rest of the album becomes a series of half baked sketches and that’s the real shame because whilst the melodies are present, lyrically and conceptually the album falls short. Native NYC’er Stephin Merritt, the band lead, has built a reputation for high intellect and a dry, perhaps British even, sense of humour and previous albums would certainly confirm this but on Love At The Bottom Of The Sea he seems more interested in setting up the joke than delivering a punch line. This would be forgivable if the joke wasn’t so one-note and tracks such as "Andrew in Drag" suffer because the broad strokes in which the characters are painted only manage to conjure pantomime whereas The Magnetic Fields always sound more authentic as kitchen sink minstrels. It’s not that this is a bad album, the afore mentioned first track as well as "Quick!" are actually very good indeed (both could do well in clubs), but overall the album feels like the band are re-familiarising themselves with pop, they gave themselves some easy targets, plugged in, and whatever came out came out.