ARTIST: The Magnetic Fields
TITLE: The Wayward Bus / Distant Plastic Trees
YEAR RELEASED: 1992 / 1991
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: 100,000 Fireflies
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Gosh no
LINEUP: Stephin Merritt, Susan Anway, Sam Davol, Clauda Gonson, Johny Blood
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First two albums from Stephin Merritt’s long term project (re-released by Merge soon after and combined on one CD) show Merritt’s baroque chops and intriguing style.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: What’s more punk rock than an album on a ‘punk rock’ label that has little or no electric guitars, plenty of ornate orchestration, and intricate melodies and harmonies? When Merge snapped up Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields, they declared that they weren’t just a ‘punk’ label (not that they ever really were) but a ‘great music’ label.
Those coming in late to the Magnetic Fields will notice that Merritt’s doomy baritone isn’t extant here – Susan Anway takes the vocals and complements the songs quite well. Merritt plays almost all of the instruments himself and shows that he’s quite accomplished.
The first album (Distant Plastic Trees) has some songs that aren’t quite up to the caliber, but it also contains the all-timer “100,000 Fireflies” that Superchunk later covered. These two records are charming, beguiling, and totally Magnetic Fields.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: These two records were the only ones Anway sang for Merritt.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No – two records in one though, and the second one are tracks 1-10 (so it’s backwards, as it were).
GRADE: A-: These albums have their charm and some great, intricate songs.