48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
MERRITT IS GOD,
This review is from: 69 Love Songs (Audio CD)
In the Sixties, people used to sometimes write "Clapton is God" on the sides of buildings, so let me be the first to write "Merritt is God." (Though I wouldn't be surprised if somebody beat me to it.) The sheer number of great songs in this collection is staggering. After getting used to each volume separately, I now typically listen to the entire collection in sequence, setting aside three hours for the experience.
It's amazing how consistently high the quality is here. There are only three songs I hate--"Punk Love," "Love Is Like Jazz," and "Promises of Eternity"--and Merritt has gotten so far into my head that I wonder if the first two, at least, were intentionally designed to be hated. The theme of this album is diversity, after all, and how could a 69 song collection be diverse if you liked every song?
Merritt and his merry band of guest vocalists (24 songs are not sung by him) mix images of joy, sorrow, male, female, gay, straight, lust, true love, and just about anything else you can think of that has to do with romantic love. Merritt wisely avoided trying to string the songs together thematically, instead choosing a looser approach that gives "69 Love Songs" the feel of a really good (and delightfully long) mix tape.
A list of the songs I like, or even the songs I love, would be too lengthy to include here. For example, the first eight songs on Volume One are all knockouts, and even the ninth one, "Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits," is an amusing and entirely harmless OMD ripoff. There are great tunes in the 80s pop mode that Merritt has always favored ("The Death of Ferdinand DeSaussure" and "Long Forgotten Fairytale" are highlights), excellent piano ballads ("My Only Friend," "Busby Berkely Dreams"), and even some folky songs, though nothing seems too far removed from Broadway--and I usually don't even like showtunes. Then there are true oddities like the very first track, "Absolutely Cuckoo," which to me resembles a pop song that has been shattered into hundreds of colorful pieces and whirled around in a kaleidoscope.
Unless you're sure you're going to like this, I would suggest buying Volume One first (preferably used) and giving yourself some time to get used to it. Songs that sound almost throwaway on the first few listens may become favorites. If you find yourself becoming addicted to the disc, you can then trade it in and buy the entire set. You will want the whole thing because it comes with a big fat booklet in which Stephin Merritt discusses every single song in the collection. Considering that there are actually four albums' worth of material here (each disc is just under an hour long) it is actually a great buy.
I have two other Magnetic Fields discs, "The Charm of the Highway Strip" and "Holiday," and neither of them contain the range that you'll find here. The sound of "69 Love Songs" is based mostly on acoustic instruments, though often they are recorded or mixed in unusual ways. (I suspect that Merritt has Brian Eno's early albums in his collection.) So even if you're familiar with Stephin Merritt's other work but do not consider yourself to be a fan, you owe it to yourself to give "69 Love Songs" a try. There's nothing else like it. You may even end up, like me, with a strange compulsion to go out and buy yourself a ukelele.