After a trio of experimental albums, The Magnetic Fields return to familiar form with Love At The Bottom Of The Sea. The album feels like an epilogue to the classic 69 Love Songs, but it’s uneven with both brilliant and blasé moments.
The Magnetic Fields have always been adept at contrasting their lyrics and music effectively and “God Wants Us To Wait” is a perfect example. The tale a relationship hindered by religion is told over a seductive mix of synth and percussion. This is followed by instant classic “Andrew in Drag.”
“I’ll never see that girl again. He did it as a gag,” frontman Stephen Merritt sings, “I’ll pine away forevermore for Andrew in drag.” It’s an unusual love and a confusing one, but the listener will still be saddened that this love story didn’t have a happy ending.
Merritt is at his most cutting on “The Machine in Your Hand” where he longs to be a smartphone so that his lover will pay attention.
“You’re not really a person. You’re a gadget with meat stuck to it,” he sings. For us smartphone addicts out there, it’ll make you feel guilty enough to turn your phone off next time you’re with the ones you love.
There are moments where it feels like the band phoned it in. “I’d Go Anywhere With Hugh” is too cutesy and the joke too simple. “My Husband’s Pied-a-Terre” is almost the opposite as it’s too busy musically.
Love At The Bottom Of The Sea might make listeners groan as much as it makes them smile, but the smiles are much more memorable.
The Magnetic Fields will play Cat’s Cradle on April 11 and 12.