It is unnecessary to write a bio about Jeff Mangum.1
1 Rather, it isn’t Jeff Mangum, per se, who requires a few descriptive paragraphs. In as much as Mangum himself has spent the last decade-plus away from the spotlight, as if to say, “please don’t talk about me w/r/t who I am as a person, where I am from, what I am doing. Instead, for your consideration I will leave you with this one albuma for you to uphold as the lo-fi enthusiast’s soundtrack of the late 90s, filled with war stories and the ghost of Anne Frank, brought to the height of intensity with a caterwauling discordant symphony of horns and sad and celebratory voices.” Music nerds, this is your Nevermind. Or rather, it is a bookend to Nevermind, cradling the decade that defined Generation Y between album sleeves. Within Mangum’s silence we are encouraged to create our own narratives, and for those of us who have pondered the meaning of the tale of the two-headed boy and the king of carrot flowers, these songs have entered the psyche through the temporal lobe, and have informed our nightmares and our dreams.
a Though Neutral Milk Hotel has a brief discography of one 7” and two full length albums, it is the final recording by the band in 1998, In an Aeroplane Over the Sea, that is the thematic juggernaut that keeps most who come across it enraptured with its weirdness, an album that was released to (mostly) rave critical reviews, though the subsequent, almost immediate indefinite hiatus of the band meant that fans were not able to see this material performed live.
JS with apologies to David Foster Wallace