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The Magnetic FieldsAudio CD
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

Price: $12.57 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
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listen  8. Too Drunk to Dream 2:58$0.99  Buy MP3 
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the Magnetic Fields
Love at the Bottom of the Sea


Songwriter Stephin Merritt enjoys working with themes: escape, country roads, vampires, miniatures. The Magnetic Fields’ House of Tomorrow (1992) featured all “loop” songs. Distortion (2008) was an homage to the sound ... Read more in Amazon's The Magnetic Fields Store

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Frequently Bought Together

Distortion + Realism + I
Price for all three: $36.76

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  • Realism $11.88
  • I $12.31

Product Details

  • Audio CD (January 15, 2008)
  • Original Release Date: 2007
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #128,079 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Editorial Reviews

About the Artist

Fans of the Jesus and Mary Chain will surely be thrilled with Distortion, which lives up to its title in the first few seconds of the jovial opener, "Three Way." The entire album is awash in a bed of feedback and noise sharp enough to match bandleader/Svengali Stephen Merritt's notoriously wry lyrical jabs. In its willful obfuscation of simple melodies, Distortion recalls MF's earlier, more electronic, more reverb-soaked output. Of course, Merritt's songs could probably work with any arrangement, cacophonous or otherwise. His lyrics and succinct melodies survive the treatment, and his inner Cole Porter remains intact. "California Girls" features regular collaborator Shirley Simms cheerily plotting a battle-axe attack on some of the more blonde and plastic elements of California society (Simms handles vocal duties on about half the tunes here). "Mr. Mistletoe" is an anti-carol with a forlorn Merritt attaching his romantic betrayal to various holiday symbols. "Too Drunk to Dream" is classic Merritt, with an upbeat but down-on-its-luck refrain: "I gotta get too drunk to dream / Because I only dream of you." Drenched in distortion, MF's now-expected acoustic instruments--cello, piano, accordion--create some remarkable textures. Merritt and crew remain full of songs and surprises, and in finding their ability to make a ruckus, have created an inarguably singular offering. --Jason Pace

Product Description

2008 album from singer/songwriter Stephin Merritt and co. Distortion features the brilliant melodies and wry lyrics that Merritt has long been praised for, but, as the album title suggests, he serves them up with a twist. If the late, great Cole Porter had somehow been resurrected just in time to appear at the Coachella Indie Rock fest, the results might sound something like this: small, ironic tales of love and woe startlingly enveloped in layers of live feedback that recall the noisy Pop provocations of legendary Scottish quartet The Jesus and Mary Chain. As album producer, Merritt takes a completely novel approach to his deployment of feedback, going well beyond mere fuzzed-out guitar to incorporate cello, piano and accordion into his mad-scientist mix. What he's conjured up is a gorgeous drone that reverberates over the length of 13 tunes. It's like hearing a great three-minute Pop classic from someone else's car radio in the middle of a traffic jam: melodic bliss surfacing above the din.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Distorted Dreams January 14, 2008
Format:Audio CD
The Magnetic Fields have been around for the better part of two decades, keeping fans happy by releasing albums every couple of years. Distortion comes to us a little less than 4 years after the band's previous album, i. Both i and its predecessor, 69 Love Songs, were concept albums, wrapped around a basic idea. It should come as no surprise then that Distortion follows in much the same way. Though there is no thematic ribbon that ties the songs together, the actual album is in fact a mess of distortion and feedback.

It's an odd thing to hear on a Magnetic Fields album. As a band who has made a name for themselves by making stately and generally straightforward music, something as raw and dirty as distortion seems like a mismatch. Surprisingly though, this new element allows the band to explore some previously uncharted territory. 60s pop is the clear sound that Stephin Merritt and his bandmates are going for this time around, with driving and repetitive guitar lines that are catchy in and of themselves. Album opener, "Three-Way," for example, makes for enjoyable song despite the fact that Merritt's trademarked lyrical wit never makes an appearance. It is, rather, guitars, drums, and keyboards that make the song as enjoyable as it is. It is here that we're first greeted with what Distortion promotes with it's title; a decidedly lo-fi sound with blaring mids and a consistent layer of distortion and feedbacking guitars below the music itself.

Despite it being the theme of the album, however, it is also my least favorite part. While songs like "California Girls" and "Please Stop Dancing" undoubtedly benefit from this aesthetic, others like "Old Fools" would seem better suited to a more traditional Magnetic Fields sound. It's kind of a double-edged sword.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Metal Machine Merritt March 4, 2012
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Stephin Merritt is so talented that he has to create challenges for himself in order to keep things interesting. When he challenged himself to write 69 love songs, the resulting album was a spectacular success. He followed that up by recording an entire album of songs that began with the letter "I." Arguably, it was another success, albeit on much more modest terms. For "Distortion," he created a challenge of a different kind. This time, the unifying idea was not about the songs themselves, but rather, the recording process. Every track on the album is bathed in reverb, feedback, and distortion.

The idea is not as weird as it sounds. In a way, it is a throwback to the early days of the Magnetic Fields. The first two albums and the "House of Tomorrow" EP also featured a layered electronic sound. Traces of this sound could still be found in "69 Love Songs"--think of "I Don't Want to Get Over You" or "I'm Sorry I Love You." The name of the band even seems to hint at this approach to recording.

On "Distortion," however, the approach is taken to an extreme, and the results are sometimes hard to endure. It doesn't help that the songwriting is not as strong as it is on most Magnetic Fields albums. Half of the songs are sung by Stephin Merritt and the other half by Shirley Simms, and for whatever reason, the Shirley songs are all better than the Stephin songs. A few of the Stephin songs are almost torturous to listen to, particularly "Mr. Mistletoe" and "Zombie Boy," as his deep voice mingles unappealingly with the murky production.

Among the Shirley songs, though, there are a few gems.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Takes a Risk February 6, 2008
Format:Audio CD
I think he took a big risk here by changing his band's sound so drastically. As other reviewers have mentioned, the usual witty lyrics and hook-filled tunes are absolutely drenched in feedback and recorded in a very "low-fi" manner (see: Guided by Voices, Pavement, Jesus and Mary Chain, Sonic Youth, Joy Division, etc.). If I am in the right mood, and I listen to this sucker all the way through, it absolutely wins me over. I love this sound and it does bring back a lot of 90's alt-rock memories for me. And California Girls is hilarious, memorable, snarky, and in a parallel just and fair universe, it would be a #1 song on the pop charts.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Different, and good December 12, 2008
Format:Audio CD
I, for one, love this album. No, it's not "69 Love Songs". Unlike some reviewers, I'm glad that they don't make the same album over and over again. The production is interesting and works well with the songs, which are very strong. I think it's better than their last album, "i". This is change I can believe in!
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5.0 out of 5 stars great LP November 21, 2008
Format:Audio CD
While I am not a Stephin Merritt superfan, this is the fourth Magnetic Fields LP I have bought - "Charm of the Highway Strip" is my personal favorite - and I think it's great. I am surprised by the negative reviews.

Be forewarned I guess to all Magnetic Fields fans...this is basically traditional MF songs amped up with a heavy dose of feedback/noise ala The Jesus & Mary Chain. Some might not like it, I think it's a welcome change for the dude - although there are alot of bands playing this style right now, which is fine by me! See Raveonettes, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, A Place To Bury Strangers, Ceremony, Vandelles, Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls, Manhattan Love Suicides, Glasvegas, etc.

The songs might get a bit repetitive but that doesn't really bother me. The standout songs are: California Girls (amazing!), Drive on Driver, Too Drunk To Dream, etc.

Overall: don't expect this too sound like any other Magnetic Fields record. It's just a really noisy version of MF. If you can't handle that, you might want to stay away. I love it!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Satan's Muzak
My god, this is terrible! And I say this as an unabashed admirer of Magnetic Fields and Stephen Merritt. Read more
Published on February 2, 2010 by T. F. Welsh
2.0 out of 5 stars Biggest disapointment of the year?
Stephin Merritt is a genius, but he is a frustrating one. His band's catalog is decidedly inconsistent. Read more
Published on October 17, 2008 by B. Martin
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
It got better with the second listen, as the songs are high quality. As TMF fans, we know Mr. Merritt is a freaky genius. Read more
Published on September 26, 2008 by Scott
4.0 out of 5 stars Will Mr. Merritt ever run out of ideas?
I'm starting to doubt it. He's written as many incredible pop songs as just about anybody and keeps cranking them out pretty consistently. Read more
Published on March 23, 2008 by Gerth Mirthful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just okay
I really like most Magnetic Fields releases. My favorite is Holiday. To tell you the truth the distortion really does not add anything! Overall it is a mediocre record.
Published on March 11, 2008 by R. Feinstein
2.0 out of 5 stars Tired
I have liked this band in the past, but I have grown tired of this album already (in a few listens)... Read more
Published on March 3, 2008 by T. Boaz
2.0 out of 5 stars you can do better
I love the Magnetic Fields but this tribute to the classic 'Psychocandy' by The Jesus and Mary Chain disappointed. Read more
Published on February 29, 2008 by James Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars Another great MF album
Departing a bit from previous releases, Distortion is yet another example of the Magnetic Fields ability to produce meaningful music in an almost bubble gum poppish guise while... Read more
Published on February 26, 2008 by Bradford A. Harkness
4.0 out of 5 stars "i" + distortion
Upon first listen to "Distortion" it really blew me away. At first glance it does very much seem like a radical departure for the "Magnetic Fields. Read more
Published on February 21, 2008 by Juan Carlo
4.0 out of 5 stars Stephen Merritt has combined some of the best lyrics with some of the...
May not be his very best album; I like Holiday and Get Lost more; but is surely one of the best so far. Plus How could anyone hate an homage to J.A.M.C?
Published on February 17, 2008 by sixtension
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