Neutral Milk Hotel’s history is fairly well-known among the indie music faithful. They came onto the scene in Georgia in the early 1990s. Their music was a lo-fi mish-mash of folk, indie, noise rock, and any other bits of music they could grasp onto for a fleet moment. They gained some attention to a larger audience with their brilliant, but very strange, On Avery Island and finally gained a huge following with this album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. Shortly after the album was released, and its attentions gathered and swelled, Jeff Mangum, NHM’s principal member, their singer and songwriter and leader, decided he has had enough, and disappeared.
Since then, he’s released an CD of field recordings in eastern Europe, he’s appeared playing instruments on his friend’s albums, and he’s appeared on stage with Apples In Stereo and The Olivia Tremor Control. Every time his face appears in public, or anything related to music has his name attached to it, people come running, desperately hoping for the next Neutral Milk Hotel album. Such was the power of Aeroplane, released in 1998. It asked every question that every frightened, ignorant youth had, and evoked every emotion. It provided very few answers. In this sense, the album is absolutely devastating. That Mangum would open this door for us, and that he would never follow it up. I can’t blame him for it. But I can’t help but wonder at the album that will never be.