A few months back, my best friend invited me to the UNC-Chapel Hill to check out the campuses radio station. He had recently become a DJ there and wanted me to see the station’s enviable collection of music and burn as many CD’s as I liked. Naturally, I jumped at the idea. Chapel Hill’s radio station is known for its high standards of indie rock and I practically salivated at the chance to hang out there for a day, enjoying a virtual all-you-can-eat buffet of amazing music. When the day finally arrived, I sat on a couch surrounded by walls covered in music, burning the CD’s from a large pile I had collected next to me. Half were bands I had heard of but had never bothered to get into and others, I had picked blindly. One of those others was In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel.

Upon first listen, I was changed. We overdramatic music hipsters often speak of albums that have cahnged our lives so please, forgive me for the cliche. However, there is no other way to describe what happened. Lead singer and songwriter, Jeff Mangum, told me that when I was young, I was the King of Carrot Flowers and, by God, I believed him and still believe him today. From its first moments, Aeroplane creates a world for its listener to believe in all the things that we are meant to grow out of, to become something we long had convinced ourselves was impossible. From Two-Headed Boys to Ghosts, the atmosphere this album creates insists that its listener delve into the unimaginable.

The acclaim for Aeroplane has only grown since its release in 1998. There are very few people who have heard this record who can honestly say they do not love it. However, there is a small faction of dissenters who refuse to let this record into their lives. They see this album and its fans as part of  an elitist mentality. True, people like me probably don’t make the matter any better, as I think Aeroplane is perfect and do not hesitate to tell anyone who will listen. Still, no matter how much we fans praise this album, the dissenters will not budge; to them, Aeroplane is just another OK Computer hipsters are using to judge them. This is why a Jeff Mangum return is needed now more than ever.

Interest in Aeroplane is higher now than it has ever been. How odd that the rampant praise for the album is one of the reasons Mangum dipped out of the spotlight in the first place. Just look at how much interest Mangum raised late last year when he played a few spots on the Elephant 6 Tour. Although he only played two songs, his fans went rampant at the idea of a new record or tour from the textbook recluse. If a tour is announced, it will undoubtedly become the biggest event of the decade for indie rock, and with only a few months to spare.

The generation below mine has yet to have their transformative music experience. In fact, my generation hasn’t even had its own. Mangum has the ability to give us exactly what we need most right now in music; something that can transform us. Since Aeroplane, there has been no other record that so perfectly blends everything that entails being alive into just 40 mintues worth of “soft, silly music”. Mangum didn’t just teach us how to rock out. He taught us how to breathe in a way we never thought possible.

As fanboyish as it sounds, I do not see any other artist making music today that has the potential to do what Mangum did. If we get what we ask for and another Neutral Milk Hotel album is announced (or perhaps a Jeff Mangum solo album), many of us would be too scared to listen. It would be like going to your favorite theme park growing up at the age of thirty and realizing it wasn’t quite as good as you thought it was. However, for all intents and purposes, we need to go back to our childhood one more time, just to see if we can. And if we can’t, we’ll walk away knowing that there is something else out there for us now.

I guess it’s all up to Mangum.

Advertisements