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NMH: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

Days like today, I often think of these words:

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

NEW YORK TIMES: Neutral Milk Hotel, the 1990s indie-rock band known for its experimental sound, obscure lyrics and cult following, is reuniting for the first time in over a decade for a series of shows next fall, the band announced on its Web site. The band went into hibernation after releasing “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” in 1998 and finishing a tour to promote the album. For years, the band’s frontman, Jeff Mangum, was a recluse in the indie-rock world, but he resurfaced for some solo tours over the last two years. Now it appears he has reassembled the lineup of the band that emerged after 1996’s “On Avery Island”: Scott Spillane, Jeremy Barnes and Julian Koster. The band says some of the proceeds from the concerts will go to Children of the Blue Sky, a charity that helps street children in Mongolia. So far the tour is very limited: The first two shows will be held in Athens, Ga., at the 40 Watt Club and a third will take place in the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in Asheville, N.C. Two more shows are planned in Taipei, Taiwan, and Tokyo in late November and early December. MORE

PREVIOUSLY:  In 1998, Neutral Milk Hotel released an album of hallucinatory folk-rock called In The Aeroplane Over The Sea that is, it can be said without fear of exaggeration, nothing short of a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. Like My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, it is lightning caught in a bottle, one of those rare perfect albums that come along maybe once a decade. Or once a lifetime. In 1999, Jeff Mangum — Neutral Milk’s singer, songwriter and primary guitarist — disappeared from public life without explanation, declining all entreaties to perform or discuss the album or record a follow-up. Over the course of his decade-long Salinger-like hermitage, succeeding generations have discovered and come to revere the album, and as such it has become something like The Catcher In The Rye of indie-rock. Two years ago he emerged from seclusion and started performing again, refusing to offer any explanation for his mysterious disappearance or sudden return. No matter. The ambiguity only seems to heighten the intrigue of his legend. Thursday night’s performance at the Irvine Auditorium, at Penn, sold out in 35 seconds. Taking the stage dressed in a white cranberry-checked cowboy shirt and a droopy gray Mao cap, the 41-year-old Louisiana-born Mangum waved hello, took a seat, strapped on an acoustic guitar and tore into the slashing, Who-like opening chords of “Two-Headed Boy,” blaring the agony and ecstasy of the lyric with his trademark, heart-tugging yelp like it was 1998 all over again. MORE

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