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Love At The Bottom Of The Sea
The Magnetic Fields Love At The Bottom Of The Sea
Released 9 March 2012
Producer Stephen Merritt
Label Domino
Length 34:09
Genre Indie, pop
Website www.houseoftomorrow.com

There’s nothing like a challenge to get The Magnetic Fields hotfooting it into the recording studio it seems. The last half a dozen albums produced by Stephen Merritt and co. have all revolved around concepts, the latter of the bunch going cold turkey on synths. The latest in the production line, Love at the Bottom of the Sea, is yes synths. However, for all Merritt’s lofty ideals, the end product sounds rather dated, and might sit better nestled in your late nineties cassettes tape rack, between Dandy Warhols and They Might Be Giants.

The Fields’ eleventh LP opens with the light hearted 'Your Girlfriend’s Face', and 'Andrew in Drag', and both are stuffed to the gills with catchy hooks and whimsy. Unfortunately, it is once it hits the middle that it begins to sag.

'I’d Go Anywhere With Hugh' is, as the title suggests, a failed attempt at humour, and sets the tone for the mid-tempo marshlands that The Fields start to sink into.

'I Don’t like Your Tone', similarly drags, like a plodding waltz, sung by a heavily sedated Jim Morrison, and 'Born for Love' is a similarly doped up Lee Hazelwood, the country haze cheapened by chirping cricket effects.

'Quick' is ‘90s whine-rock, in the vein of Jane’s Addiction, its slow and sodden refrain doing nothing to up the game in the second half.

Perhaps the best efforts on this album are those that harp back to the “stoner synth” days of Courtney Taylor-Taylor and Anton Newcombe. 'God Wants Us to Wait', and 'Infatuation' are very danceable, whereas 'I’ve Run Away to Join the Fairies' sees Merritt come over all charming ‘60s chanteur.

Aside from the rhythm decelerating to an almost unbearable rate, it’s the tone of this album that will hit a bum note with some listeners. Diehards will disagree, but the folly in Merritt’s lyrics, doesn’t feel as don’t-give-a-damn as he would wish us to think. It soon begins to grate, and one can almost imagine Merritt fashioning himself as a sort of Shakespearean court jester, all bell-hats and gurning, masking one liners loaded with veracity. Sadly, it does not ring true. It’s “silliness for smart people”, in the grand tradition of Wayne Coyne and Neil Hannon, that somehow comes across as snide rather than witty.

'All She Cares About is Mariachi', rounds off LATBOTS, and is a sort of Spanish serenade, the piece de resistance in a forced work of farce. The joke has indeed worn thin.

- Deirdre Flannery