“We’ve got our per diems in our pockets and we’re ready for some drinking. So tip your bartender over.”
That is how Stephin Merritt, lead vocalist, harmonium player and founder of Magnetic Fields started their set March 7th at Union Transfer. They began with “I Die” from their 2004 album I, which proved to be a favorite amongst a sea of black-rimmed glasses and vintage shirts. Touring to promote their new album, Love At the Bottom of the Sea, Magnetic Fields came with some brilliant new songs. One of the many “revenge fantasies on the album”, as Claudia Gonson, band leader and pianist put it, is “Your Girlfriend’s Face”. This light diddy sung by vocalist Shirley Simms exclaimed,
“So I’ve taken a contract out on ya”ll
For making me feel infinitely small
In the evenings I devise your death
Being buried alive on crystal meth”
Throughout the night, the banter between Claudia and Stephin kept with the irony and misery of the songs, while Shirley, Sam Davol and John Woo would sit in silence, creating a scene reminiscent of a holiday dinner during a divorce. At one point Claudia began to say, “This song is from…” Stephin cut her off with a glare. “It doesn’t matter. Just play it.” Then Claudia counted them into another captivating song hypnotizing the audience.
“Andrew In Drag” brought giggles to us all as Stephin droned on stating “The only girl I’ll ever love is Andrew in Drag.” Other favorites included “Busby Berkley Dreams”, “The Horrible Party”, where Claudia and Shirley harmonized over Stephin’s kazoo playing, “I’ve Run Away To Join The Fairies” from their new album and “Book Of Love” featuring the eerie sound of John sliding down the frets of his guitar while Sam seduced us with his messy hair and effortless cello playing.
Never disappointing and ever alluring, Magnetic Fields is a timeless gem. Just keep the picture taking to a minimum as it erks Stephin almost as much as yelling out requests where he will dryly say, “Shut up.” They just began their tour so try and catch them before they head off to Europe. And if you can, catch Bachelorette, opener for Magnetic Fields. Annabel Alber, a quirky and enchanting woman from New Zealand with a sound of many voices will blow you away.