In lieu of a weekly music update post I’m staring a new recurring feature: Please reissue me. First up: The 6ths wonderful 1995 work, Wasps’ Nests.
I’m not sure when I bought Wasps’ Nests, but its appeal to me as a teenager was pretty obvious: the album featured some of my favorite singers (Mac McCaughan, Mary Timony and Lou Barlow) as well as some folks I didn’t know yet (Amelia Fletcher, Chris Knox, Georgia Hubley) singing songs written by Stephin Merritt.
The title, like the band’s second record, Hyacinths and Thistles, is a tongue-twister. Stephin Merritt loves words and language, which you can see from reading the excellent booklet contained in the 69 Love Songs box set, or from the film Strange Powers. (I also highly recommend Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records for another part of the Magnetic Fields story.)
Unfortunately, I don’t have the CD’s liner notes anymore, but I remember them being fascinating to 16 year old me. Each song had its own page and the name of the singer was written at the top, as well as their famous bands. I think the syntax was as such: “Lou Barlow is the guy from Sebadoh.” They even used that with the women: “Georgia Hubley is the guy from Yo La Tengo.” Mitch Easter, who was known for producing records a the time, was “the famous producer guy who used to be the guy from Let’s Active.”
I went to Paris in high school and sang “Hall of Mirrors” in my head the whole time I was at Versailles (“Josephine” was another Merritt favorite in Paris, although I only knew the Portastatic version at the time). I break out into “Aging Spinsters” almost every day; it has been a constant earworm for almost 20 years. I fell in love with Merritt’s voice on that song and eventually became a Magnetic Fields fanatic.
Since the record was produced before the age of Internet video, there’s not much available on You Tube. Here’s “In the City in the Rain” (Lou Barlow), complete with Photoshop-esque effects; or my personal favorite, “San Diego Zoo” (Barbara Manning), which scores photos of animals (awwww). Wasps’ Nests IS available on Spotify.
Wasps’ Nests was the first Stephin Merritt release on a major label: London Records. As far as I can tell, it was only available on CD and a rare 7″ box set which goes for upwards of $60 online. I would be so pleased if my favorite label in the world, Merge Records, could attain the rights to this forgotten gem and reissue it on LP.
[THIS JUST IN: Merge is remastering and rereleasing the entire Future Bible Heroes (another Stephin Merritt project) catalog, in addition to putting out a new FBH LP. YAY MERGE!]