The kings of the themed album, the collective behind 69 Love Songs and 50 Song Memoir now go for 28 quick songs, from the 17 second assault of Death Pact to all two minutes and 35 seconds of the hymnal Come, Life, Shaker Life! Even with such brevity, however, Stephin Merritt is one of the great storytelling lyricists, with more life in the 55 seconds of The Boy In The Corner than many singer-songwriters achieve across whole albums.

The trouble is, while the duff ideas quickly vanish, the potentially great songs often don’t get the chance to grow on you properly. Kill A Man A Week and Let’s Get Drunk Again are both frustratingly great sketches abandoned too soon, and When The Brat Upstairs Got A Drum Kit stops just as you’re starting to hum along. But, as ever with The Magnetic Fields, there are moments of perfection: The Best Cup Of Coffee In Tennessee and Biker Gang are hilarious tales, powered respectively by ukulele and lust, and Claudia Gonson’s vaudevillian Evil Rhythm lives up to its title in style. Somewhere in here, there’s a great album in development, but, despite 28 more fresh insights, it may leave you as frustrated as most quickies.

Rating: 6/10
John Earls

 

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