I've been trying to find a way into Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. I've had it for years without being able to hear what others hear, but it's now or never, I've more or less arbitrarily decided. I've listened to it on the iPod, without success. I've taken it in the car, driven around with it. The occasionally catchy song aside, I’m not feeling it, I’m ready to sell it, give up on it. Yet I still feel some obligation to try further, to give it more time.
But . . . it’s boring. And I don't care about the goddamned two-headed boy. I hate describing music as boring.
I pick Aimée up from work. We're chatting about her day, when finally she interrupts herself and says, "What is this?"
Aimée's taste in music is fairly diverse. She loves Sleater-Kinney and Le Tigre, Barbra Streisand and Dolly Parton. She loves the Mountain Goats and Smog; loves Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, the Beatles and the Stones. She’s partial to Bach and Beethoven and Chopin. She’s happy with most of the non-skronky jazz I have, though she doesn’t mind a little bit of the noise, in certain forms. For example, she likes Pavement and Sonic Youth just fine, but is not likely to have a good time with most Pelt or any Double Leopards (and definitely not with any Wolf Eyes, though by now I'm inclined to agree with her there).
"It’s Neutral Milk Hotel", I say, "I’ve been listening to it, trying to understand why all the indie rock fans think it’s like the best thing ever."
She turns it down. "It sounds like . . . what is that band I don’t like?"
"I . . . um, I don't know, there are so many." After a pause, "Wait, wait." I laugh: " . . . it does NOT sound like the Spin Doctors!"
"Yes it does!" She laughs. "It sounds like the Spin Doctors. Just like that other band." She'd previously compared Ted Leo & the Pharmacists to the Spin Doctors. I'd been enjoying my new Ted Leo cd (Hearts of Oak, my first), so I'd been duly appalled. She seems to get some special joy in comparing indie rock she doesn't like to the blandly evil Spin Doctors.
She starts singing the Spin Doctors' awful "Two Princes". I plead with her to stop; mercifully we soon arrive home. I pop out the Neutral Milk Hotel cd and ask her, holding up the case, "So . . . you don't like it either?"
I have a feeling the cd may not make it.