April 13, 2011


Neutral Uke Hotel strum gaily over the sea: Flight from the hater brigade (JONATHAN DONALDSON, April 12, 2011, Boston Phoenix)

Shawn Fogel of Golden Bloom knows that his latest stage act is a formula for potential enormous suckitude. Take one of indie rock's sacred cows — Neutral Milk Hotel's 1999 album In the Aeroplane over the Sea — and play the whole thing, straight through, on ukuleles. Then have the audacity to call it Neutral Uke Hotel. "I think we came up with an idea for a project that is one of the easiest things to hate," chuckles Fogel from his home base of Montclair, New Jersey. "I don't want to hear the dub reggae version of Metallica."

Most of the rest of us wouldn't want to hear Metalli-jah either. Come to think of it, though, why not? Is anything really that precious? Would anyone even care if Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum hadn't tweaked out and disappeared? But people do care. [...]

But Fogel found that by stripping the album's 11 tracks of electric Salvation Army Band mayhem down to two ukuleles (played by himself and Michael Epstein of Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling and the Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library), melodica (the Boston-based Josh Cohen of Golden Bloom), trumpet (the Future Everybody's Matt Girard), and a snare drum (Golden Bloom's Andrew Aubacher), he could, uh, milk a sing-along/campfire vibe out of Aeroplane's often cacophonous and emotionally high-pitched songs. And people who never heard the music performed live got the chance to experience the album in a different sonic way — in a fun and refreshingly unsnobby way. "It wasn't even [as much] about the ukulele itself as it was about stripping down the songs as much as possible," says Fogel. "What's great about a ukulele is that it has only four strings — it's a really, really narrow harmonic range. So when you play a chord, all the notes are really close to one another. It's a great way of stripping down a song to its barest essence."

Neutral Uke Hotel/Golden Bloom/The Motion Sick (Daytrotter Sessions)

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Posted by at April 13, 2011 5:11 AM

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