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Neutral Milk Hotel are a highly influential indie rock band that consisted of Jeff Mangum (vocals, guitar), Scot Spillane (horns), Jeremy Barnes, and Julian Koster. Along with The Olivia Tremor Control and The Apples in Stereo, one of the three main bands forming Elephant 6's first wave.
These guys are pretty much worshiped by indie kids. Most publications (excluding Pitchfork) tend to ignore them, despite never really being critically panned by any of them. To some, they are overrated, to others they are underrated. No matter what side people stand on though, their influence is undeniable.
Jeff Mangum formed a band called Synthetic Flying Machine with high school friends Will Cullen Hart and Bill Doss in the late 1980s. Though the band never fully got much recognition, they stayed together for a couple of years, eventually changing their name to The Olivia Tremor Control. Mangum soon got the desire to do some experimentation with a separate project and that's where Neutral Milk Hotel was born.
After leaving The Olivia Tremor Control, Mangum started putting more work into Neutral Milk Hotel and in 1996 their first album, On Avery Island was released. Though critically praised, this album is -- perhaps rather unfairly -- not nearly as remembered as their Cult Classic that would be released next.
Over the next two years, Mangum would develop a strange obsession with Anne Frank and the Holocaust, and he would start writing lyrics for what would appear on In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, which is considered a modern classic. The album was released in 1998 and the band toured in support of it, but as touring persisted, Mangum's obsession just grew stronger. Eventually music press wouldn't leave him alone and the depression of his thoughts constantly swirling around his obsession caused him to have a nervous breakdown, which caused the band to split in 1999.
Hints of reunions have circulated around over the past years, but nothing definite as to whether or not they'd truly get back together. Arcade Fire said that they signed to Merge Records because it was Neutral Milk Hotel's record label. Because of this, the two bands are constantly compared. In contrast, Jeremy Barnes' other band, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, is so wildly different from his work with NMH that the two are rarely compared.
Neutral Milk Hotel contains examples of the following tropes:
- Careful with That Axe: Used on "Rubby Bulbs", "Sailing Through", and various SFM-era recordings (Invent Yourself A Shortcake).
- Creator Breakdown -- See above.
- Epic Rocking -- "Pree-Sisters Swallowing a Donkey's Eye", "Oh Comely", "Message Sent", "Ferris Wheel On Fire", the "Rubby Bulbs"/"Snow Song Pt. 2" live medley-thing...
- Everything's Louder with Bagpipes -- These guys loved their bagpipes. And horns.
- Fading Into the Next Song -- Many of their songs faded into each other, especially live.
- Lost Episode -- Many songs performed live by the band, while probably recorded at some point, have never even been bootlegged in their studio incarnations. The most infamous example is perhaps fan favorite song "Ferris Wheel On Fire".
- Also, the song "My Skull".
- Madness Mantra
- Not Christian Rock -- "King Of Carrot Flowers Pt. 2" starts off with the lines "I love you Jesus Christ". Many people confuse this for a Christian rock song.
- Notice that a part of the lyrics for this song is absent from the booklet, with this message being there instead: "a song for an old friend a song for a new friend and now a song for jesus christ and since this seems to confuse people i'd like to simply say that i mean what i sing although the theme of endless endless on this album is not based on any religion byt more in the belief that all things seem to contain a white light within them that i see as eternal."
- Reclusive Artist -- Mangum remained out of the limelight for ten years. In 2009, he began making live appearances again, usually sitting in with his friends' bands or playing solo gigs for charity.
- Recycled in Space -- In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is Anne Frank... ON FREUD!
- Signature Song -- "Holland, 1945"
- "The King of Carrot Flowers Pts. 2 and 3"
- "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea"
- Spiritual Successor -- The most likely candidate is Arcade Fire.
- Word Salad Title -- Take a look at that band name.