The Magnetic Fields – 69 Love Songs

John Earls reviews 69 Love Songs, Domino’s six-disc 10″ boxset that brings together the classic 1999 collection…

69 love songs


Initially regarded as an arch chamber pop outfit similar to The Divine Comedy, the world revised its opinion of Stephin Merritt’s collective when he turned in the three-hour self-explanatory 69 Love Songs in 1999.

It wasn’t just the quantity and bravura nature of the project, it was the quality. Around a third of its songs have become staple choices for alternative acts seeking something pithy to say on the human condition, from the delirious The Luckiest Guy On The Lower East Side to Busby Berkeley Dreams’ aching melancholy.
Remarkably, it really is a collection you can devour in one sitting, such is the breadth of Merritt’s character studies of love and the scope of his band’s playing.
Originally presented as a triple album, Domino present it as a six-disc 10” box-set, complete with a 24-page booklet written by noted children’s author Lemony Snicket of A Series Of Unfortunate Events fame. It’s all the more fascinating for Snicket’s lengthy interview with Merritt having been conducted just as the original album was being finished, with his ideas on its genesis being unvarnished by familiar anecdotes.
It’s intriguing that Merritt initially conceived 69 Love Songs as a Broadway revue, to be sung by contest winners in a proto-X Factor competition. In an alternate universe, Stephin Merritt is as successful as Simon Cowell, while Cowell is a little-known figure admired only by the music industry.
Domino does a fine job of presenting it all, but at an eye-watering £70, so they should.