Iíve said it before and Iíll say it again: it takes a lot of balls to
organize a tribute album to yourself, let alone two of them. Then
again, the Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt isnít your average musician. In the past 18
months alone heís released a critically acclaimed triple album (69 Love
Songs), an EP of bleeping retro-pop (Iím Lonely and I Love It under his
Future Bible Heroes moniker) and this, his second album as the 6ths.
About the only things Merritt hasn't done in the last
year and a half is release anything under his Gothic Archies guise or
be knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
Picking up where Waspís Nest left off, Hyacinths and Thistles finds
Merritt constructing a complex sonic playground in which a host of
guest vocalists have come to frolic. While the songs might
initially be Merrittís, each vocalist manages to transform each piece into something
The album begins with the twinkling "As You Turn You Go",
which features a Momus vocal dancing around firefly-like
beats and plucky harpsichord flourishes. Sally Timms lends an almost ethereal quality to the minimal new wave pulse of
"Give Me Back My Dreams". The album's highlight comes soon after, as Bob Mould's
stirring baritone croon joins the lush piano work of He Didn't", which wouldn't
sound out of place on
69 Love Songs. Other highlights of this star-studded pseudo tribute
include '60s pop-icon Melanieís dreamy take on "Iíve Got New York", St.
Etienne chanteuse Sarah Cracknell cooing over "Kissing Things"'
scratchy, highly mechanized beats and the vaudeville-tinged "The Dead
Only Quickly", which features Divine Comedian Neil Hannon's throaty
Itís not until album closer "Oahu" that things
really get weird. Running more than 28 minutes, the song ebbs and
flows over spectral ambience and whizzing synths, eventually shooting
out of the stratosphere and into the trackless abyss.
Would-be pop Svengalis should stand up and take note of
all that Stephin Merritt has accomplished in a surprisingly short time.
The 6ths are but one piece of his giant pop puzzle, but they are an
important one. Hyacinths and Thistles will help cement his
place atop the pop pantheon and garner him more well-deserved critical acclaim.
And really, anyone with such brass cojones is certainly a hero of mine.