Love At The Bottom Of The Sea is a fun record; it's the type of album you want to put on to brighten up the dreariest of days. That much is apparent even from the close up of the bright yellow cartoon eyes on the cover. That it doesn't take itself too seriously is a benefit, but it's also strangely elusive, as none of the tracks last more than (give or take) two and a half minutes. Just as you get comfortable with each songs eccentricities, Stephen Merritt has moved on to a different neon coloured composition. The best comparison structurally and musically is a funfair ride that twists and turns leaving you simultaneously dazed, exhilarated and wanting more.
For more recent fans of The Magnetic Fields, the bands 10th studio album may also seem like a backwards step. Having spent the last decade moving away from electronic and programmed backing loops they're back again with a vengeance. That's not a bad thing, but it certainly makes you question whether it's a sensible move to jettison the work of recent years in favour of a return to a relatively safe comfort zone? Whichever side of the fence you fall on, the band are obviously enjoying themselves as they enter their third decade of releasing records.
Highlights include the purity ring wearing 'God Wants Us To Wait' ("although it would be the perfect end to our date, I love you baby but God wants us to wait.") which sounds like Merritt has secretly smuggled in the Pet Shop Boys to do the keyboards on this tongue in cheek love song. Elsewhere the ghost of Ian Curtis seems to be invoked in the decidedly Joy Division sounding vocals on 'Born For Love' and the bizarre 'I've Run Away To Join The Faeries'. Meanwhile 'Andrew In Drag' joyously turns teenage machismo on its head with a cross dressing infatuation ("I've always been a ladies man and I don't have to brag. But I'd become a momma's boy for Andrew in drag".).
The synths throughout add to the candyfloss appeal of many of the songs, but if you stripped this back you'd still be left with a set of well-written and very concise tracks. That the experience starts to become a little too saccharine as the track numbers reach double figures is of little surprise. Therefore your enjoyment of the album will hinge on how sweet your musical tooth is.
As a whole Love At The Bottom Of The Sea is enjoyable, if at times frustrating in its seemingly hyperactive approach as it moves briskly between songs. There's much to admire about some of the bizarre noises that will emerge from your headphones during its 30 plus minute runtime. It's a bit like an artificial sugar rush, fun while it lasts, but you'd like something with a bit more substance afterwards.