Yesterday, a little bit after noon, news started to spread that Neutral Milk Hotel had reformed and announced a tour. Neutral Milk Hotel is a band based out of the Athens, Georgia music scene that have released two albums: On Avery Island in 1996 and an album which is viewed as the best of all time by a few of us including myself at CDB, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea in 1998. This album has a huge place in the alternative music scene as it both influenced the sound of some of the most successful alternative bands today and defined the genre from that point on for some of its listeners. Unfortunately Jeff Mangum, the vocalist for Neutral Milk Hotel, wasn’t quite ready for this to happen. He had to leave and break up the band, a situation that gets well described in this article by Slate Magazine from 2008.
But In the Aeroplane Over the Sea never got forgotten, rather it became the last message from the band and the symbolic form of a perfect album. There were never any messages against reforming, but as time passed on it seemed to become more clear that Mangum wanted to stay out of the spotlight while the other members continued on to their own projects(We’ve seen Jeremy Barnes as a member of A Hawk and a Hacksaw in Albany this past Fall, and Julian Koster’s band The Music Tapes opened up for Mangum when Noah Bondy, Jackie Carr, Connor Dixon and myself made the trip to see a show at Mass MOCA). After more then a decade of silence, Mangum started to do surprise shows in 2010 for special occasions or arranged crowds, and then began to announce acoustic tours and festival dates featuring Neutral Milk Hotel material in 2011 and 2012.
Then yesterday, a little bit after noon and after a fifteen year hiatus, the news broke that Neutral Milk Hotel would be returning and that a tour was announced. This is a return to the full lineup that produced “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”: Jeff Mangum, Scott Spillane, Julian Koster, and Jeremy Barnes. This in itself is fantastic, because while the acoustic Mangum show was an experience in itself, some Neutral Milk Hotel songs lack in that format. While there won’t be to large of a difference in tracks like “King of Carrot Flowers” (Pt. One), “Two-Headed Boy (Parts 1 and 2)”, or “Oh Comely” which will still be a large case of an acoustic guitar, Mangum, and a crowd full of backup vocalists, this is a lineup that can bring full justice to Neutral Milk Hotel tracks like “Song Against Sex”, “Gardenhead- Leave Me Alone”, and personal favorite of “Holland, 1945”.
And then there’s this extra bit, that there’s been no announcement that this reunion is strictly for touring purposes. Neutral Milk Hotel could be planning on placing some previously unreleased tracks into a proper album or possibly even creating new music to followup In the Aeroplane Over the Sea fifteen years later. Mangum did reveal to the crowd at the Mass MOCA show that he was still writing new music, but he didn’t seem to think much of it at that point and passed on the opportunity to play it. For now the only definitive is that the band is back together, and they will be touring as a full lineup later this year including at least one show with Daniel Johnston, a legendary songwriter himself.
Check out Neutral Milk Hotel’s announced tour dates in an article on Pitchfork