Neutral Milk Hotel is an adored indie band that abruptly stopped making music in 1998, and obsessive fans have been waiting for a reunion ever since. Now they're back! But it's not what you think.
NMH is responsible for In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, a record so grand and moving that its tenth anniversary last year was an occasion for places like Slate and Stereogum to wonder at its marvels and lament the fact that Jeff Mangum, the band's singer and songwriter, dropped off the face of the earth after its release. Slate calls Mangum the J.D. Salinger of indie rock, a fitting description both of Mangum's relationship to the public and his hipster fans' devotion to him as an icon of something missing in their lives. The desire for an NMH reunion among some fans is so intense that false rumors hit the internet every year or so, and sightings of Mangum at his friends' shows in New York qualify as news on Pitchfork.
The issuance of a press release today by NMH's label Merge Records referring to the band in the present tense and bearing the subject line "Neutral Milk Hotel Need Your Help" certainly quickened our heartbeat.
But it is not to be. Neutral Milk Hotel doesn't need your help mounting a reunion tour: They want you to help save a very cool, creaky old carousel in Massachusetts. Here's the release, written by the band's bass/singing saw/Moog/accordian/banjo/wandering genie player Julian Koster with Mangum:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 30, 2009
The Paragon Carousel is a beautiful machine that has been my dear neighbor for many moons. Now 81 years old, it is in need of a little love and attention in order for it to survive.
It is my sincere wish for the Paragon Carousel to be a part of the magic of long seaside summer afternoons for many years to come. But it might not get to.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where the great whirling contraptions of mechanical music and light are not as profitable to operate as other things, and carousels are worth much more taken apart and sold in pieces to museums, where one must pay to look at them behind glass, rather than having them simply existing in the world that we now all share.
I spoke with Jeff and Scott and Jeremy about this and they agreed that I should, on behalf of Neutral Milk Hotel, make an appeal to the good people who might have enjoyed the music made over the years, because we think you'd understand especially, and want to help.
We humbly ask you to vote!
The Paragon Carousel is competing with 24 other historic Massachussettes buildings for a grant of $100,000. The historic site with the most votes wins, and anyone anywhere can vote. We would love it if by our collective effort we could ensure the continuation of this grand place. It only takes a moment and you can do so here
You are allowed to vote once a day until May 17th. Your vote means a great deal to all of us at Elephant Six. Places like this are so special. They deserve to exist in the same world that we do. So we can visit them with our bodies, not just our memories and dreams.
We'd like to thank you for your help and for spreading the word.
-Julian Koster with Jeff Mangum on behalf of Neutral Milk Hotel
So go save the Paragon Carousel—vote here—and maybe they'll make another record.
Full disclosure: I am co-writing a book with the founders of Merge Records about the history of the label, including Neutral Milk Hotel. But you should still help out the carousel!