A couple of nights ago the tasteratti assembled in an unlikely Westside venue, almost-hidden playhouse the Wilshire Ebell, to pay homage to the mighty Magnetic Fields. "Our Own Cole Porter," curmudgeon Stephin Merritt came out of his bubble of creative ennui to present the Magnetics' latest album, Realism, and to do his usual stage thing we know and love: acting like an adult child past his bedtime, while bandmate Claudia Gonson, she of the dulcet NPR tones and gentle demeanor, mommies him into singing for us.
The crowd (including Mad Men's Christina "I'm Sick of Talking About My Curves" Hendricks!) appreciated everything they were given, including some rarities, B-sides, and gems from the i album and the 6ths project. They politely applauded (though not too loudly--Stephin doesn't like that) through the unfamiliar songs from Realism.
But what most people really wanted to hear were the songs from Merritt's masterpiece, 69 Love Songs. In a sense (and this drives the resident genius a little crazy), the Magnetic Fields are not a one-hit wonder but a one-triple-album wonder. If the audiences were handed one of those focus-group dials for "disapprove-approve-strongly approve," every time the band whipped out one of the 69 love songs the needle would have gone way into the red.
Which brings us to Los Campos Magneticos--an Argentine trio who have translated several of Merritt's 69 golden oldies and remaigined them as a loose, hipster cabaret act that they perform with minimal promotion around the shabby chic metropolis of Buenos Aires. Local indie musicians Alvy Singer (Alvy Singer Big Band), Nacho Rodríguez (Onda Vaga, Nacho y los Caracoles) y Rubin (Rubin y Los Subtitulados), along with their silent partner, manager, conceptualist and co-translator Federico Novick, have turned the Magnetics' eclectic songbook into a homogenous act that highlights the sheer genius of the cranky songwriter.
Like Cole Porter and Ray Davies, Merritt has crafted beautiful pieces that are never tied to the original recordings, to their time and circumstance, and can be endlessly reinvented by interpreters even beyond language. Watch:
More Campos Magenticos, after the jump.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Los Campos Magneticos have been getting some attention down south. The Argentine edition of Rolling Stone magazine recently featured them, and Novick has been in touch with Claudia Gonson herself, who has given her blessing to the project. Merritt, of course, has been mum--but our guess is that he would enjoy what these guys are doing.
Think about it: isn't a bohemian trio of accomplished instrumentalists parading your repertoire around an eternally economically depressed, beautiful old-style city exactly the kind of Bela Tarr fantasy the Magnetic Fields' mastermind would secretly appreciate?