Album Review

Jeff Mangum "Live at Jittery Joes"

Aaron George
Just a heads up dropping the name of this album will never earn you any cool points. Jeff Mangum’s Live at Jittery Joe’s is far too listener friendly to ever impress the more musically obsessed people you may encounter, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that this is one of the best collections, for both selection and sound quality, of Neutral Milk Hotel material that you are likely to find readily available in one place.

While most of their material is considered “good” by people who like them, it would be a lie to say that every NMH album (studio or not) is arranged well. On Jittery Joe’s there are no long bouts of static noise, no oddly over-driven electric guitars, and no random recordings made by a kid that has since had artistic merit thrust on him. Instead what you get is a twelve song solo performance, many of the songs picked out by the crowd and recorded beautifully and performed intimately.

While many of the songs here are familiar, the majority of them have impactful differences to their counterparts. Possibly the most pleasant of these is the tempo change and overall feeling shift given to “A Baby for Pree/Where You’ll Find Me Now”. Whereas the studio version plays somewhat flat and morose, on Jittery Joe’s the songs bounce along at an uplifting pace. “Where You’ll Find Me Now” is also extended quite a bit and could be seen as something
wholly separate from other versions with the addition of a new verse and a chorus of sorts.

Two songs you might not be familiar with are “I Will Bury You in Time” and “I Love How You Love Me”. Both songs are refreshing to Aeroplane weary listeners, and “I Will Bury You in Time” may just grow to be one of your favorites.

One final bit of goodness about this album: it was released by Mangum himself in order to combat the prices for NMH bootlegs which were, and probably still are, selling for exorbitant prices on the internet. If that doesn't sell you, the disc is also enhanced and when played on a computer has a full video recording of the show. Live at Jittery Joe’s is truly something special and a must have for fans of Neutral Milk Hotel.