Stephin Merritt, in his twenty-plus years in music, has been nothing short of prolific. Following on from the synth-less trilogy that was I, Distortion and Realism, this time Merritt and The Magnetic Fields return to synth-based pop that made them famous back in the nineties. As with Merritt's magnum opus that was the epic 69 Love Songs, Love At The Bottom Of The Sea is everything you'd expect from the master of three minute or less pop songs, based loosely on love and lost.
Love At The Bottom Of The Sea has all the proponents of a Magnetic Fields release both outside and including the musical matters, with humorous track titles like 'Infatuation (With Your Gyration)' and 'All She Cares About Is Mariachi' and Merritt's bass like vocals and amusing lyrics. Merritt explores sexuality and magnetism on 'Andrew In Drag,' with lyrics like "A pity she does not exist/A shame he's not a fag/the only girl I ever loved was Andrew in drag" exemplifying Merritt's confused and even tragic infatuation with really poignancy. Whilst the band may have returned to synth-based pop for the album, they have definitely learned a thing or two from the past three releases, with the song featuring little in the way of synth-lines, but still delivering the kind of endearing pop that the group make so well.
Merritt and Claudia Gonson trade places as well as they've ever done throughout the album, both of them suiting the accompanying music to a key. Whilst Gonson offers a considerable contribution to the album, it really is with Merritt where the real highlights of the album lie. On 'Infatuation (With Your Gyration)' Merritt crafts at tongue-in-cheek take on Human League-esque 80s synth group that is side-splittingly funny at times. An injection of humour is never far away on a Magnetic Fields release and this is my no means any different for Love At The Bottom Of The Sea. 'The Horrible Party' starts off brilliantly with opening line "Take me away from this horrible party and let me go home to my mother" a typical Merrittism, his lyrics serving as the antithesis of his bassy vocal style (although 'The Horrible Party' is sung by Gonson, this was just a generals statement).
Love At The Bottom Of The Sea is by no means the group's pinnacle release; they pretty much took care of that in 1999. However it is as entertaining a release from the group as you'd expect, the reincorporation of synths only serves to highlight how well the band manage great pop songs, long may they continue to do so.