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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

‘In the Aeroplane Over the Sea’ celebrates 25 years

“In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” is an exploration of human emotion and tragedy. (Photo courtesy of Spotify)

After reading “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank, lead singer of Neutral Milk Hotel Jeff Mangum penned “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” — a story of memory, pain and loss.

Told through the lens of the life of Anne Frank with a carpe diem theme, this album, while tragic, also shows how beautiful life can be. Just look at how the album is bookended.

The story begins and ends with a child sitting in a room with his family, watching his dad contemplate thoughts of suicide. A gruesome start, yes, but Mangum uses this sorrowful starting place to explore what it means to die and whether life has meaning throughout the rest of the album.

In an album like this, it is impossible to do a lyrical track-by-track breakdown. It feels like an album that was written in one sitting — like if Mangum didn’t get these lyrics down on a page, he would have gone insane. They are cryptic and surreal, often weaving together dreamlike images and metaphors.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the title track. The song’s lyrics are an enigmatic blend of love and tragedy, with references to Anne Frank and a haunting refrain that speaks to the longing for a lost love. It’s as if Mangum invites the listener to decipher the profound emotions hidden within his words.

The tragic backdrop of World War II and the Holocaust, as well as the haunting presence of Anne Frank, looms over the album. “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” is often interpreted as an elegy for Anne Frank, a young girl whose life was cut short by the horrors of war. Mangum’s lamentation captures the profound sense of loss and injustice that permeates the album, making it an ode to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of tragedy.

The thematic core of “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” centers on the complexities of human relationships. “Two-Headed Boy Pt. 1” introduces the idea of duality, perhaps suggesting that within every person, there are conflicting desires and emotions. The two-headed boy himself, a symbol of this internal struggle, seeks love and connection amid the chaos of life.

As the album progresses, it delves deeper into the raw emotions of love and longing. “Oh Comely,” the longest track on the album, is a tour de force of vulnerability. Mangum’s voice cracks and wavers as he pours his heart out, and the rawness of his emotion is palpable. The almost nine-minute piece, recorded in one take, is so emotionally powerful that at the very end of the song in the distance you can hear backup guitarist Robert Schneider scream “holy shit.” The song’s winding lyrics and intricate guitar work create an intense and intimate atmosphere, as if we are witnessing a deeply personal confession.

The album reaches its emotional zenith in “Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2.” As a continuation of the first part, it revisits the theme of duality and the longing for a lost love. Mangum’s vocals are hauntingly beautiful, and the song’s somber melody lingers in the listener’s mind, leaving a profound impact.

“In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” is an album that defies categorization. It’s a sonic tapestry woven from the threads of love, loss and the human experience. Jeff Mangum’s lyrics are a puzzle, his voice an emotional vessel, and the music a vehicle for profound introspection. The album’s enduring appeal lies in its ability to resonate with listeners on a deeply personal level, inviting them to explore their own emotions and experiences.

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Charlie Berman, Sports Editor

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