Neutral Milk Hotel | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Neutral Milk Hotel 

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NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL

Part of a new coterie of giddy indie popsters that also includes the Apples in Stereo and Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel transfers Brian Wilson's obsessive sonic tinkering to the four-track. Ostensibly a one-man band, NMH's Jeff Mangum treats loopy but catchy melodies redolent of Ray Davies with truly oddball production flourishes on the debut album On Avery Island (Merge). Aided mostly by Robert Schnieder of the Apples, Mangum slathers his songs with folky guitar strumming, fuzzed-out bass, swirling organ, hyperactive drumming, and slinky trombone. While it's the solid hooks that make the tunes, Mangum has no qualms about sullying them with a less-than-tidy attack, and the go-for-broke production consistently turns the dapper melodies on their heads. Mangum seems in thrall to noise, and bows to his loud obsession with uncontained enthusiasm. The album's lengthy closer, "Pree-Sisters Swallowing a Donkey's Eye," is more skittering noise than song, but for the most part Mangum achieves an impressive cohesion among his disparate interests. This marks NMH's Chicago debut. Also on the bill are Butterglory, Hayden, and Jenny Toomey. Friday, 10 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.

PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of two guys (one possibly NMH's Jeff Mangum) playing piano.

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