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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible book.
Let me first say this: I am incredibly biased. ITAOTS is one of my all-time favorite albums, and I have many memories inextricably tied to it. I would argue, however, that appreciation of the album is not even a prerequisite to enjoy the book. Kim Cooper has compiled a beautiful account of a group of friends who, through good fortune, a wealth of talent, and most of...
Published on December 7, 2005 by Cat Blood

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3 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Swing and a Miss
This book adds nothing to the wonderful work of imaginative, psychokinetic lyrics backed by the saddest, sweetest horns ever played by white people. It appears to be a third or fourth hand recount of someone's late night recollection of a band that probably involved Jeff Magnum. Most of the interesting details are from the Avery Island sessions. I was ready to have my...
Published on April 20, 2009 by Senator Jensen


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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible book., December 7, 2005
This review is from: Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (33 1/3) (Paperback)
Let me first say this: I am incredibly biased. ITAOTS is one of my all-time favorite albums, and I have many memories inextricably tied to it. I would argue, however, that appreciation of the album is not even a prerequisite to enjoy the book. Kim Cooper has compiled a beautiful account of a group of friends who, through good fortune, a wealth of talent, and most of all an undying belief in the power of music, created one of the most powerful records ever set to tape.

Obsessively detailing recording techniques, the origins of the songs, and the background of all involved, Cooper interviews all principles (except for elusive singer/songwriter Jeff Mangum, though I maintain that this only adds to the power of the book), creating a complete and fascinating story. She has a novelist's eye for the necessary detail and for plot development, and we become incredibly attached to the hugely intelligent and friendly Elephant 6 clique that helped the album to fruition.

This book is obviously a must-read for all interested in the Elephant 6 Collective or Neutral Milk Hotel, but at the same time it is too good to remain within those crowds. That would be like preaching to the choir. We have here an inspirational document of the continuing power of music, something that should be on required reading lists in every music program in every school. This here is proof that all outcasts and misfits who have found solace in the healing properties of music can succeed beyond their wildest dreams.

Jeff Mangum may or may not produce an album again, but ITAOTS is good enough for now. This book is not only a worthy tribute, but an accomplishment in and of itself. Congratulations, Ms. Cooper, you have written a masterpiece.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Overview of a Legendary Band, December 2, 2005
By 
J. Kuykendall (Madison, WI USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (33 1/3) (Paperback)
I dreaded this book so much. I assumed it would be another convoluted attempt to interpret Netural Milk Hotel's surrealistic lyrics and connect them into a narrative that exists only in one person's imagination, offering no insight into the band itself, not to mention its ringleader and savant singer/songwriter, Jeff Mangum--the sort of thing that generally keeps me away from Neutral Milk Hotel messageboards and fellow fans. But Kim Cooper devotes only one very brief chapter to that hopeless task, and spends the rest of the book chronicling the history of the creative musical collective that surrounds Neutral Milk, "Elephant 6," and showing how Mangum was always at the center, until, after his sophomore album's unexpected success, he suddenly retreated from the spotlight, which caused some to unfairly (and inaccurately) label him the indie rock equivalent of the mentally ill Syd Barrett.

Cooper interviews Robert Schneider (Apples in Stereo), Bryan Poole (Elf Power), Ben Crum (Great Lakes), and Laura Carter, Scott Spillane, and Julian Koster (all of NMH), as well as others connected to Elephant 6, for a pretty complete history that follows this constructed family of musicians from Ruston, Louisiana to Athens, Georgia, with stops in Denver and New York City. (Jeff Mangum declined to be interviewed, which gives the narrative the odd feeling that its central character is deceased.) There are some vivid and funny anecdotes about life lived in uncomfortably close communal quarters with little food and money, with Mangum sleeping in a haunted closet (which informed the song "Ghost"), or working out songs in the bathroom, of life on the road, and Spillane almost losing thousands of dollars in tour money at a Pizza Hut.

I've been an Elephant 6 fan for a long time, hung out at concerts, obsessively collected limited edition vinyl singles, et cetera., so I devoured this all in a sitting, but I was surprised to find how deeply moved I was. I felt stunned. Kind of like listening to a Neutral Milk Hotel album.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading For Any Fan Of Indy Music, February 21, 2006
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This review is from: Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (33 1/3) (Paperback)
The 33 1/3 series of music books has to be one of the most entertaining, inspired and informative sets of music and cultural writing ever to come out. And Neutral Milk Hotel was perhaps one of the best indy bands ever to record. So it only makes sense that a 33 1/3 book about NMH would be an amazing experience.

And it is.

The mastermind behind NMH, Jeff Mangum, is famously elusive and his lyrics are beautifully mysterious. So if ever an album cried out for an explanatory book to be written about it, it's "In The Aeroplane Over the Sea".

Yet, at the same time, I was slightly hesitant to read this book - I'm always afraid that learning about a song's lyrics (even sometimes learning exactly what the words are) might ruin my deeply personal enjoyment of the music itself.

But you needn't worry about that with this book. I came away from it appreciating NMH all the more.

Kim Cooper does an excellent job of describing the unique coming together of people, places and ideas that created one of the most unusual and inspired albums of all time. I especially enjoyed learning about the other members of NMH - something that's not often talked about because of the deification of Jeff Mangum, however well-deserved.

And this book does what the best books about cultural phenomena do - it demystifies its subject without ruining the wonder and beauty of the music itself.

Thanks, Kim Cooper!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NMH from the inside..., February 18, 2006
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This review is from: Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (33 1/3) (Paperback)
this is yet another great book in an awesome series (33 1/3). I found it insightful and well written with unique perspectives on the roots of Neutral Milk from the sources save for Jeff Magum... The breadth of the work of NMH and its influences and inspirations was awesome to learn about. I learned a great deal from this little book and recommend it to anyone who has interest in one of the greatest albums of the 90's.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best in the 33 1/3 series, August 20, 2009
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This review is from: Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (33 1/3) (Paperback)
This book is awesome because...

a) It presents a meticulous history of the band's history
b) The recording process of the album is discussed in full, and broken down song by song
c) Nearly all of the people involved with the album and the band contribute commentary, so, you get a VERY multifaceted portrait of very REAL people
d) After reading it, you will want to listen to the album several times over to pick out the subtle innuendo laced throughout...which the book talks about in depth
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Perfect Companion to the Album, January 25, 2007
This review is from: Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (33 1/3) (Paperback)
Hey, check this out: a smart, competent writer with a passion for a wonderful album actually got enough inside access to write something meaningful about it! I think this is the way the 33 1/3 series should work - the book complements the album, and made me go back and listen to it with fresh ears. Strongly recommended for fans of E6 or Aeroplane.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A definite must-have for the E6 junkie., December 2, 2005
This review is from: Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (33 1/3) (Paperback)
It's great to see Elephant Six being represented in this consistently insightful series of books.

Cooper reveals so much about Jeff Mangum's early life as an artist and music lover that will satisfy even the most obsessive NMH fans. There is also a slew of never before seen photos. You can't love Neutral Milk Hotel and not read this.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's okay to feel more than a little excited--boom boom crash, July 6, 2011
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This review is from: Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (33 1/3) (Paperback)
After living in Savannah for three years now, Athens has become an almost inevitable extension of life here in southern Georgia. And the folklore of Athens' music scene would certainly be incomplete without Neutral Milk's legacy. If you, like I, are enamored with the album, this book is a treat. Earnestly written, thoughtful and respectful to the artists and their art, Cooper's book lends deeper understanding to this almost sacrosanct album without diminishing any of its allure. I finished this book, which I later wrapped in brown paper and mailed to one of my oldest friends, and immediately had to go play the drums.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading, March 29, 2011
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This review is from: Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (33 1/3) (Paperback)
Billed as the ultimate indie-geek dissertation on one of the seminal albums of the '90s, Kim Cooper's book is actually much more. The first portion offers an insightful overview of the Elephant 6 collective, from its childhood origins to its communal lifestyle and creative process. Casual fans will be inspired to delve deeper, and even hardcore NMH devotees will find plenty here they never knew or even considered.
One minor criticism: The chapter on the actual recording process seems thrown together and lacks the narrative flow of the rest of the book. There is too much tech-speak here and not enough anecdotes.
Overall, though, this is a well-researched and loving testament to a timeless album. If you cherish "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea," you simply must read this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars First 33 1/3, A Good One, January 20, 2011
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This review is from: Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (33 1/3) (Paperback)
I found out about this series relatively recently and decided to go with this book as an introduction. It was a deliberate choice - I was vaguely familiar with the album beforehand - so I could gauge the overall effect of the book, how much I learned, how much it changed my outlook on the music

It was generally very informative. Apparently this is not necessarily the "norm" for the series, but Cooper's little volume gives a moderately detailed background of the band's members, friends, and communities. You'll learn a lot about the spirits that inspired and carried the work through to completion. I would have preferred a more detailed discussion of the album's tracks themselves, but I had a good time with the reading regardless.

The writing isn't great. It's sometimes overly simplistic. But then again it's a brief history and discussion and not a dramatic interpretation, so you can't really expect expressive writing. I've read that some 33 1/3 books are overly expressive or off-topic, so in retrospect I'm glad Cooper stayed focused.

If you're looking for a definitive, concise take on Mangum's album, look no farther. You'll find most everything you need to know here.
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Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (33 1/3)
Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (33 1/3) by Kim Cooper (Paperback - November 28, 2005)
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