INCOMING: Q&A With Stephin Merritt

[Illustration by ALEX FINE]

In advance of The Magnetic Fields concert at Union Transfer next Wednesday, we got Mr. Merritt on the horn for a follow-up to our 2008 Q&A. Look for it Monday on  a Phawker near you.

PREVIOUSLY: If there’s anything missing from Stephin Merritt’s encyclopedic oeuvre — a kitchen-sink catchall that includes everything from wry country twang and sincere synth pop to tortured torch songs and prancing show tunes — it’s Stephin Merritt. A remarkably dexterous stylistic quick-change artist — for my next trick, ladies and gentlemen, I’ll pull the Human League out of Cole Porter’s top hat— he’s a master illustrator of character sketches, meticulously cross-hatching two-minute melodramas out of the delicacies and detritus of 20th-century popular song. But for all their rapier-like wit and chameleonic genre-hopping, Merritt’s songs — spread over releases by his various band guises, including the Magnetic Fields, the 6ths, Future Bible Heroes and the Gothic Archies — always seemed to be delivered with a thespian’s flourish from a theatrical remove. As Jon Lovitz used to say with his index finger thrust skyward: That’s act-ing! Back in 1998 he sat for a year in some Lower East Side gay dive where the jukebox was always raining men, armed with only a glass of brandy and a pack of American Spirits, his beloved Chihuahua Irving on his lap, feverishly scratching out the stylized Tin Pan drollery of 69 Love Songs. (Has the knife-in-the-heart of unrequited love ever been more cruelly twisted than with the line, “The night you can’t remember, the night I can’t forget”?) There was a song for everybody on that much-lauded opus — “genius,” declared The New York Times – everybody, it would seem, except for always-a-bridesmaid Stephin Merritt. MORE

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