Neutral Milk Hotel’s lo-fi yet sonically eclectic and emotionally wrought classic In the Aeroplane Over the Sea was released fifteen years ago this week. To note and celebrate this important anniversary, we reached out to the band's biggest fan, Parks and Recreation’s April Ludgate, who nearly destroyed her relationship with Andy in season three when she declared Neutral Milk Hotel her favorite band (instead of Mouse Rat) and its singer/songwriter/genius Jeff Mangum her favorite rock star (instead of Andy). She graciously passed on this characteristically grumpy and yet earnest appreciation of the album through Parks’ showrunner Mike Schur. Let this introduce a new type of music writing into the Pitchfork era: crankicism.
A DISCUSSION OF NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL’S IN THE AEROPLANE OVER THE SEA
BY APRIL LUDGATE
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is the best album ever made and all other albums stink, and if you don’t agree, I’ll fight you.
PS: They told me this needs to be longer.
That album is great because it’s not made up of “songs.” It’s a bunch of weird, like, musical inspirations that flew down from outer space and lodged in Jeff Mangum’s skull and then he recorded them because if he hadn’t, they would’ve rattled around his brain forever and driven him insane. Which is way better than “songs.”
After you listen to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, you are never the same. Once you hear Jeff Mangum howling about Anne Frank and ghosts and semen and bombs and medical specimens in jars and teeth and dead dogs and Holland in 1945 and synthetic flying machines and your mom sticking a fork in your dad’s shoulder, you will never be able to listen to, like, Third Eye Blind again without ripping your ears off. And you will look around, and all the stupid people who have never heard it and had their lives changed forever will seem like primitive cavemen who don’t understand anything, and you’ll feel like a god because you have been exposed to Jeff Mangum and his crazy brain and sometimes you’ll think about the songs and, like, start crying in a grocery store because you can’t take how awesome they are, but it’s totally worth it. The end.
PS: Apparently they said this still has to be a little longer. Ugh. I wish I hadn’t agreed to do this.
Okay, ten more reasons it’s the best album ever.
- They use a singing saw in a lot of the songs, and it’s haunting and scary and great.
- There are two long musical, like, interludes, which I usually hate, but somehow when they happen on the album, I love them and usually start crying.
- Listen to “Oh Comely.” It’s, like, nine minutes long, and Jeff Mangum wasn’t even supposed to, like, play the whole thing when he was recording it, but he just like went into the studio and did it in one take, and at the end, Scott Spillane from the Gerbils was in the, like, sound booth or whatever, and he was so blown away that Mangum had played the whole song he yelled “Holy shit!” and they left it on the album, and you can hear it way in the background. They left it in because that’s how everyone feels when they listen to “Oh Comely.” The only possible response to hearing “Oh Comely” is to yell “Holy shit!” as loud as you can.
- Just when you think the album can’t get any better and it has grabbed you by the throat and shaken you around in order to make you understand how beautiful and sad the universe is, you get “Ghost” and “Two Headed Boy Part II,” which are both so good it makes me want to punch someone.
- At one point, Jeff Mangum just makes up the word indentions when he means “indentations,” and for some reason it’s so much better than if he had said “indentations.”
- There’s a band called Neutral Uke Hotel that does ukulele covers of all of their songs.
- “Two Headed Boy Part II” contains this lyric: “And when we break, we'll wait for our miracle/ God is a place where some holy spectacle lies.” Beat that, anyone else.
- The song “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” contains the lyric: “And one day we will die and our ashes will fly/ From the aeroplane over the sea/ But for now we are young, let us lay in the sun/ And count every beautiful thing we can see.” Beat that, anyone else.
- That’s enough reasons. If you don’t love the album by now you’re dumb and I can’t help you.
- Love, April