News: Neutral Milk Hotel To Release Box Set ‘The Collected Works Of Neutral Milk Hotel’


Neutral Milk Hotel announce ‘The Collected Works of Neutral Milk Hotel’, a box set out February 24th on Merge Records, and present the first official release of ‘Little Birds’. Pre-order the boxset here

The work has always come together subconsciously for Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum, even this box set. For years, Mangum collected images for an art box of sorts — would it be a Joseph Cornell-style assemblage? An experimental board game? Only time would tell. In the end, it became a discography-spanning compendium of his musical universe that still left a few treasures floating around in the musical ether. In 2011, Mangum collected nearly all of the band’s recorded output in a limited-edition box set, which he self-released under Neutral Milk Hotel Records, a small operation helmed by Mangum and his mother. The Merge edition of The Collected Works of Neutral Milk Hotel marks the collection’s first digital release, and includes an expanded double LP edition of On Avery Island, an exclusive 12” picture disc of Live at Jittery Joe’sa previously unreleased live recording of “Little Birds,” plus the “Holland, 1945” / “Engine” 7-inch on black vinyl with brand new art.

“Little Birds” and its 7” present a prayer-like song Mangum wrote quickly in 1998 and played later that day at a friend’s party, shortly before he stopped doing Neutral Milk Hotel. He wouldn’t play the song again for 10 years, but that live recording floated around online. Mangum wrote the song after a confrontation with a street preacher in downtown Athens who was spewing hatred towards LGBTQ people. A small group of five or six people gathered and shouted back. Mangum yelled to the point that the preacher got off his stool and slinked away. That distressing experience reverberated as Mangum wrote “Little Birds,” a song about many things, including how conservative Christianity too often imbues so-called believers with an utterly warped sense of morality. A newer version, recorded live at the Prospect Park Bandshell on Neutral Milk Hotel’s 2014 reunion tour, is included on the 2023 Merge box set.

Check it out, below:

Pre-order the boxset here

The 10” EP Ferris Wheel on Fire, primarily recorded with Schneider in 2010, collects stray songs that Mangum had written many years prior but never set to tape. (The exception is “My Dream Girl Don’t Exist,” recorded live at Aquarius Records in San Francisco in the ‘90s.) In the box set, Ferris Wheel is accompanied by a card denoting the year that each song was written, helping to illustrate how the Neutral Milk Hotel catalog took shape. Ferris Wheel’s “Oh Sister,” for instance, was written on the same day as Aeroplane’s “Oh Comely.” There’s a sense of music building in a world in which words, phrases, images, and chord progressions echo and recur. 

A final component of the box portrays that process viscerally: Live at Jittery Joe’s, the live album recorded in 1997 that Mangum first released in 2001. It captures Neutral Milk Hotel at its most profoundly pivotal moment. After the release of On Avery Island in 1996 and a subsequent tour, Mangum and his bandmates — Julian Koster, Jeremy Barnes, and Scott Spillane — found themselves in New York’s West Village where, in October of that year, Mangum wrote “Two-Headed Boy.” The band was about to get kicked out of their apartment, and soon headed south to regroup with friends in Athens. By that point, the scene was in bloom. Olivia Tremor Control had released its debut LP; Elf Power was playing. Athens was an easy and fruitful place to live and create. Neutral Milk Hotel happily joined in, moving into a beautiful house on Grady Street where Mangum continued to write In the Aeroplane Over the Sea from January to May of 1997.

If the live recordings, alternate takes, and time stamps of this box set illustrate the process of Neutral Milk Hotel’s world coming into focus, it’s fitting. In a recent conversation, Mangum reflected on a question he’s gotten often: Why didn’t Neutral Milk ever make a video? But, he clarified, the band made millions of videos—all in people’s minds. Everybody has their own Neutral Milk Hotel film in their head. For an artist who took root in the liberating aesthetic of underground tape-trading and DIY punk—whose sense of what music can be was permanently altered by the Minutemen’s non formulaic structures, by their mix of the political and the impressionistic; who announced, at the start of his catalog, “I’m finally breaking free from fear”—it’s an invitation to hear the music, and then become a part of it. 

Pre-order the boxset here

The Collected Works of Neutral Milk Hotel Tracklist:

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
1. King of the Carrot Flowers Pt. 1
2. King of Carrot Flowers Pts. 2 & 3
3. In The Aeroplane Over the Sea
4. Two-Headed Boy
5. Fool
6. Holland, 1945
7. Communist Daughter
8. Oh Comely
9. Ghost
10. [untitled]
11. Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2

On Avery Island
1. Song Against Sex
2. You’ve Passed
3. Someone Is Waiting
4. A Baby for Pree
5. Marching Theme
6. Where You’ll Find Me Now
7. Avery Island/April 1st
8. Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone
9. Three Peaches
10. Naomi
11. April 8th
12. Pree-Sisters Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye

Ferris Wheel On Fire
1. Oh Sister (1995)
2. Ferris Wheel On Fire (1993)
3. Home (1992)
4. April 8th (1992)
5. I Will Bury You in Time (1994)
6. Engine (1993)
7. A Baby for Pree/Glow Into You (1995)
8. My Dream Girl Don’t Exist (Live) [1992]

Everything Is
1. Everything Is
2. Here We Are (For W. Cullen Hart)
3. Unborn
4. Tuesday Moon
5. Ruby Bulb
6. Snow Song
7. Aunt Eggma Blow Torch

Little Birds
1. Little Birds (Live) [1998]
2. Little Birds (Studio Demo) [1998]

You’ve Passed / Where You’ll Find Me Now
1. You’ve Passed (Alternate Version)
2. Where You’ll Find Me Now (Alternate Version)

Live at Jittery Joe’s
1. Intro
2. A Baby for Pree
3. Two-Headed Boy
4. I Will Bury You in Time
5. Gardenhead / Leave Me Alone
6. Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2
7. I Love How You Love Me
8. Engine
9. Naomi
10. King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 2
11. King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 3
12. Oh Comely

Previous Track: Katatonia - Birds
This is the most recent story.

No Comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.