Continuum Books' 33 1/3 Series presents: Neutral Milk Hotel’s masterpiece: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
Michael Mofsen
1/15/2006 8:32:15 PM

Virtually unknown to the mainstream, Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is by far an all-time favorite album for critics and indie music lovers alike. And this crowd is all no doubt drawing a big smile and jumping with joy that Kim Cooper (Scram magazine editor and publisher and co-author of Lost In the Grooves: Scram’s Capricious Guide To The Music You Missed) has written about this epic album for Continuum Books’ 33 1/3 series—a collection of pocket-sized all-out tributes to favorite rock and roll albums.

Since Aeroplane was released in 1998, the album still steadily sells purely on word of mouth. Popular culture magazines never understood the genius of singer/songwriter Jeff Magnum’s bizarre yet powerful lyrics, or his heartfelt, if off-key delivery. But fans read the lyrics from and listen to Aeroplane as if they’re receiving the gospel. Jamey Huggins (Of the band, Montreal) describes in the book’s introduction that Aeroplane is like listening to a religious man speaking his bit of the liturgy. He admits, “I’ve cried while listening to the album.”

Fans have many different interpretations and analyses of the lyrics of this album. A reoccurring motif is Anne Frank and the Holocaust. Magnum was heavily influenced by Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl while writing this album, carrying her diary around with him even after he finished.

Author Kim Cooper does a marvelous job offering interpretations of the lyrics without opinionated views. She says, Consider the following as a series of cover versions, a layering of possible and partial interpretations that are needed to be transparent. One of Kim Cooper’s best and most intellectual interpretations was referred to the closing line in the album’s sixth track, “Holland 1945.”

And it's so sad to see the world agree / That they'd rather see their faces fill with flies / All when I'd want to keep white roses in their eyes

Kim Cooper points out, for example, a WWII reference about the “White Roses,” a group of martyrs in Nazi Germany that used to write negative letters about the Nazi party to German citizens.

The book starts with Jeff’s childhood and his relationship with the rest of the band members (also people from the Elephant 6 collective). Then, like a biography, the book follows the lives of the band members until the actual recording and writing process of the album. Aeroplane closes with what has happened with the band since this monumental recording and what became of Jeff Magnum. (Since this album’s release, he has only played one post-Aeroplane song).

Kim Cooper did an excellent job proficiently analyzing one of the most misunderstood albums of our time. Not overlooking a single aspect of the album, there is even a chapter on the artwork. The interview tidbits and short stories from the band are quite interesting and flow well with the rest of the book. Fans of the album will adore this book, and is a great reminder of one of the best albums ever made.


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