Neutral Milk Hotel – Collected Works of Neutral Milk Hotel (Box Set, Poster, Postcard, Reissue)
For nearly a generation, songwriter Jeff Mangum has been indie rock’s version of Harper Lee. Across five years in the mid-1990s, Mangum, the driving force behind the band Neutral Milk Hotel, released a handful of EPs and singles, culminating with the band’s second album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, in 1998. After touring Aeroplane, Neutral Milk Hotel – and Mangum – went dormant.
In the absence of new material, the legend of Neutral Milk Hotel grew. A reissue of Aeroplane in 2005 and a vinyl-only box set in 2011 further burnished the band’s reputation. Mangum embarked on a couple solo tours in 2011 and 2012, when the unthinkable happened – Neutral Milk Hotel reformed for several tours, almost exactly 20 years after their initial stint as a band.
Since then, Mangum and the band have been relatively silent. This new box set, The Collected Works, covers much of the same ground as the 2011 box set, but includes a new platter, Live at Jittery Joe’s. This 11-song set captures Mangum playing solo in front of a handful of friends. There aren’t any new songs in the setlist, but because material from Mangum is so hard to come by, this is a welcome addition to the canon.
Hardcore fans have had this box set on pre-order since it was released, newcomers might be put off by the price tag. While the band’s two albums, On Avery Island and In the Aeroplane have consistently remained in print, they frequently whet the appetite for more. Any fans of ‘90s indie rock – or Neutral Milk Hotel’s 21 st century successors, such as Arcade Fire, the Decemberists, Of Montreal and Belle and Sebastian – will want to scoop up the whole catalog. -Joel Francis