Eban & Charley


Format: CD
Label: Merge (Exclusive)
Catalog: 29505
Genre: Rock/Pop
Rel. Date: 01/22/2002
UPC: 036172950522

Eban & Charley
Artist: Stephin Merritt
Format: CD


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Stephin Merritt once told an interviewer that the best review he’d read ofany of his albums came from The Village Voice’s Robert Christgau, who wroteone line about the Magnetic Fields’ 1995 album, The Charm of the HighwayStrip: “More songs about songs and songs.” That description doesnot fit the first album Merritt has released under his own name. Not only arethe six Merritt-penned lyrics on Eban & Charley, the soundtrack toJames Bolton’s film of the same name, among the least pop-referential he’sever written, the other two tracks that could be counted as “songs,”per se, are a pair of standards, instrumental versions of “O Tannenbaum”and “Greensleeves,” played on an echoey, cavernous, sepulchral grandpiano.

The rest of the dozen cuts are instrumental doodads and mood pieces, frequentlyplayed on toy instruments, meant for accompanying onscreen action. While occasionallywitty (the shuddering noises of “Victorian Robotics” c ome to mind),these are preferably encountered in that context, too—anyone who pays asmuch attention to lyrics as Merritt is not now nor ever will turn into Brian Eno.Sadly, a lot of the song-songs evince Merritt marking time and/or cleaning outhis unused-material drawers. Still, a couple of them are up to his high standards:“Maria Maria Maria,” a quiet slice of married-life melancholy (“Iwonder if she ever knew/Her lover was her husband too”), and “This LittleUkelele,” which pits the tiny instrument against an orchestra and wins. Callthem love songs number 70 and 71.