x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Love at The Bottom by The Magnetic Fields balances humour and heart-break

The album is proof that pop can be as fun, as it is adventurous.

Love at The Bottom
(Domino)
****

There is prolific and then there is Boston's The Magnetic Fields. Their 1999 opus 69 Love Songs was no less than – well, 69 love ditties – spread over three discs. The album remains one of the most heralded recordings in modern pop.

And rightly so. Where pop music is often derided for its simplicity, The Magnetic Fields' chief songwriter Stephin Merritt illustrates how much the genre can accommodate, from offbeat instrumentation to wordplay, balancing humour and heart-break. Love At The Bottom of The Sea, the group's 11th album, is another exercise in consummate songwriting.

It is also a loose companion piece to 69 Love Songs as Merritt returns to matters of the heart, albeit in a funnier, twisted light.

The opening lines of the electro-tinged In Your Girlfriend's Face has co-vocalist Claudia Gonson sweetly state: So I've taken a contract out on you/ I have hired a hit-man to do what they do/ He will do his best to do his worst." In The Machine in Your Hand, Merritt ingeniously declares his wish to be his ex-lover's mobile phone, declaring: "I want to be the machine in your hand and go wherever you go."

Such couplets would not have been so endearing if it wasn't for the supporting musicianship. Merritt and co are crafty as well as ruthless; songs rarely reach the four minute mark as they packs the tunes with an eclectic array of delicate acoustic guitars, synths and pretty strings.

The album is another collection that proves pop can be as fun as it is adventurous.