In Other Words
It’s been just three weeks into the New Year and already I’m getting impatient waiting to listen to two albums that are expected to be released shortly. The first one promises to be a fun one by a band that is a master of technology and pop music, The Magnetic Fields. You may or may not have heard them before but if you haven’t, you could start with their three-volume masterpiece of an album titled 69 Love Songs as you wait for their new album called Love at the Bottom of the Sea.
The 69 Love Songs album is not painfully dreary as the title may suggest but is fun-filled with songs that are rarely more than three-minutes long (many are in the one to two-minute range and some of them last even less than a minute) and have, for example, names such as Fido, Your Leash is Too Long, The Cactus Where Your Heart Should Be, A Chicken With Its Head Cut Off and How Fucking Romantic.
The Magnetic Fields are all about their frontman, vocalist and song-writer Stephin Merritt whose lyrics and a raw bass voice adds the zing to the band’s sound. On 69 Love Songs, which dates back to 1999 by the way, the music is uncharacteristically minimalist and acoustic but typically The Magnetic Fields are usually what you’d likely call a synth-pop band.
Anyway, the reason why I’m looking forward to their new album, Love at the Bottom of the Sea, which doesn’t come out till March, is because I heard an early release of one of the tracks from that album. It’s called Andrew in Drag and here’s some of the lyrics: A pity she does not exist/A shame he’s not a fag/The only girl I ever loved was/Andrew in drag./ There is no hope of love for me/ From here on I’m a stag/The only girl I’ll ever love is/Andrew in drag. It gets even more hilarious as it goes along: So stick him in a dress and/He’s the only boy I’d shag/The only boy I’d anything is/ Andrew in drag. The song’s out on various websites officially for streaming as a teaser to the album. Listening to it is obviously much better than just reading the lyrics.
I’m betting that the lyrics of the rest of the songs on the new album from The Magnetic Fields—it’s out only in March, though–will be as good and quirky as this one. Speaking of lyrics, brings me to the other album that I’m looking forward to this year. And, from what I’ve learned, I may not have to wait for long. The album is Old Ideas and it is by Leonard Cohen. To be released next Tuesday (January 31), Old Ideas will be Cohen’s twelfth album in a career as a singer and songwriter that spans 45 years.
At 77, Cohen is like a sage. He is, after all, ordained as a Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk. But you could argue that he always sounded like a sage. In 1967, when his first album, Song of Leonard Cohen, was released, Cohen was already 33, a mature age for a debutant by popular music standards.
As in the case of The Magnetic Fields’ new album, I have heard just one song off Cohen’s new one. The song is called Going Home and the lyrics show that even in his late seventies the poet-songwriter still retains his deeply sensitive voice and writes incredibly great poetry. I heard Going Home off a curious source—not the usual gaggle of mp3 blogs that I trawl but on the The New Yorker Magazine’s website. The magazine’s latest issue publishes Going Home as a poem and the song is streamed on its website.
Here’s a snatch from the lyrics: I love to speak with Leonard/ He’s a sportsman and a shepherd/He’s a lazy bastard/Living in a suit/But he does what I tell him/Even though it isn’t welcome/He will never have the freedom/To refuse/ He will speak these words of wisdom/Like a sage, a man of vision/ Though he knows he’s really nothing/ But the brief elaboration of a tube. Exactly. I also thought those words by Cohen seemed very autobiographical. Can’t wait to listen to the album.