Distortion comes as advertised, said Joan Anderman in The Boston Globe. Songwriter Stephin Merritt, for his latest experiment with his band Magnetic Fields, has ensured that clarity is “nowhere to be found.” Over the last two decades, Merritt has polished his style of juxtaposing “perennially pretty” music with “relentlessly grim” lyrics. These two strands of his music brilliantly collide on the band’s eighth album. Distortion is a “hook-filled cacophony, a fuzz-saturated pop fest, catchy and assaultive in equal measure.” Merritt’s usual array of instruments—piano, cello, accordion, and guitar—is swamped in feedback. His charming pop songs are “shrouded in thick layers of sonic lint.” Merritt seems incapable of putting out a straightforward album, said Jody Rosen in Slate.com. Bored by his own supposed genius, he requires a concept to make a record. His big idea for Distortion was to re-create the sound of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s seminal 1985 album Psychocandy, and at this he fails. The album, however, is all the better for it. The Magnetic Fields here sound like “the cutest darn metal machine music you’ve ever heard,” as Distortion combines all the hazy drone of the Jesus and Mary Chain with all the pop pleasure of Phil Spector’s wall of sound. Where squall was the star of Psychocandy, Merritt’s wit and musicianship are the draw of Distortion, said Glenn Gamboa in Newsday. It just goes to show that melodies speak louder than din.
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