Neutral Milk Hotel Reunion: The Three Best (and Worst) Aeroplane Over the Sea Lyrics

Categories: Lists

jeff_mangum_drawing_troy_farah.jpg
Troy Farah draws last month's Jeff Mangum show.
Longtime hermit, certified genius-oddball, and Neutral Milk Hotel frontman Jeff Mangum is getting the band back together for a paltry smattering of tour dates this summer. In honor of the wonderful news, we've put together a list of the three best and three worst lines from NMH's magnum opus, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, an album that started off pretty much perfect and has only improved with age.

BEST: "I will spit until I learn how to speak." -- "King of Carrot Flowers, Pts. Two & Three"

In a record loaded with surreal abstractions, idiosyncratic poetics, and downright enigmatic and associative turns of phrase, it's the immediacy here that works so well: This is the type of line that'd make a good T-shirt or tattoo or would do well as one of those whatever the things you pin to Pinterest are called. It's a mantra, you might argue, for self-expression and underscores not only Mangum's superhuman ability for it, but his lovely voice as well.

WORST: "Semen stains the mountaintops. -- "Communist Daughter"

When I bought this record in 1999, I was still in high school and still wildly insistent that all my friends listen to the records I loved. One such friend -- more into the Dead Kennedys and Anti-Flag than any silly acoustic thing I dug -- agreed to listen to Aeroplane.

The most admiration he could muster was for this one line, and, begrudgingly, I nodded my head in fierce agreement. But I've always found it clunky and, I dunno, too easy for a guy who can come up with something like, "She will feed you tomatoes and radio wire," or who can make me reach behind myself to feel the notches in my own spine.

BEST: "I love you, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, I love you, yes I do." -- "The King of Carrot Flowers, Pts. Two & Three"

You have to remember, this record came out in 1998. The catchier stuff from Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain was still getting college radio airplay and Odelay was a mere two years old; debilitating ironic self-distance and cynicism were tacit in the Chuck-Taylors-and-ill-advised-facial-hair crowd.

So a line declaring, in no uncertain terms, a love for, you know, Him, was maybe the boldest move on a record full of them. Even for those of us who identify as unrepentant atheists, the line -- so naked, so sincere, so true -- still gives chills.

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