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Charm of the Highway Strip
Magnetic Fields
Charm of the Highway Strip
Genres: Alternative Rock, Pop, Rock
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #1

Sweet and sour, incurably romantic, and deeply misanthropic, Magnetic Fields' mastermind Stephin Merritt is a one-of-a-kind voice in modern lo-fi pop. This 1994 outing is a bit of a departure, with Merritt taking his trade...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Magnetic Fields
Title: Charm of the Highway Strip
Members Wishing: 7
Total Copies: 0
Label: Merge Records
Original Release Date: 4/19/1994
Re-Release Date: 4/18/1994
Genres: Alternative Rock, Pop, Rock
Style: Indie & Lo-Fi
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 036172935529

Sweet and sour, incurably romantic, and deeply misanthropic, Magnetic Fields' mastermind Stephin Merritt is a one-of-a-kind voice in modern lo-fi pop. This 1994 outing is a bit of a departure, with Merritt taking his trademark ABBA-styled Casio-pop for a spin in the country--literally. Awash in lush, Nashville-ready production, songs like the doleful "Lonely Highway" (which encompasses snatches of the Lee Hazelwood classic "Jackson") and "Born on a Train" are nothing short of thrilling. But much of this particular stretch of the Fields is lacking in charm, since Merritt's wry stance chafes a bit too hard against the guileless melodies. Completists may feel compelled to take a ride, but novices should probably stick to the more urbane journeys offered by Holiday and Distant Plastic Trees. --David Sprague

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CD Reviews

This album charmed me senseless
catastrophewaitress | Newton, MA United States | 01/12/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Seriously, if you are a magnetic fields fan, BUY THIS. You may not prefer the more dark, country, sound of this album as opposed to the often springy 69 love songs, but i guarantee you, there is no way not to fall in love with this album. By my second listen, this album was already sacred to me, and right now it is sitting in its case after my last spurt of listenings, waiting patiently until the time is right for me to take it out again. My nightmare would be to overplay this album. Stephen Merrit's low voice will make you feel lonely as he sings of a girl's fear of trains, or a lonesome highway, but at the same time he soothes you, in making you too feel like an explorer on some vast, endless highway. The songs on this album make you feel that while you may be lonely, it's an almost noble thing to be."
REALLY Alt Country
James Carragher | New York | 09/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I'm in a Magnetic Fields month, or maybe a Magnetic Fields six months, who knows? Haven't dipped into 69 Love Songs, yet. And that's probably a six month project itself. But of I, The Wayward Bus/Plastic Trees, and Charm of the Highway Strip, Charm is my current favorite. Like the work of Handsome Family, Giant Sand, and Hank Dogs, this country is not going to be crashing into the mainstream any time soon. Made up of equal parts electronic, synth mixes, cello, and something that sounds like a harpsichord (personally I hear more Phil Spector than Abba in the music), every one of these nine vocal songs -- the tenth, Dust Bowl, is an instrumental that can be skipped -- trades on the classic country themes of trains and highways. Only in Merritt's hand they are neither appealing nor romantic, but obsessions that promise escape and deliver only more pain and loneliness. Which, of course, is exactly what defines Merritt. Lonely Highway, with its references to Jackson, might be the fate that awaited Lee and Nancy, Johnny and June, after they got married in that "fever hotter than a pepper sprout." My two current favorites are I Have the Moon (though written eight years or so earlier, it's what Drusilla might have sung to Spike on Buffy after he became human) and Fear of Trains, where Merritt joins the Ramones in having the KKK take someone away, in this case the history of a Native American girl. Next week the favorites are likely to be different. What's certain is that Charm of the Highway Strip as a whole is going to be a very long-term favorite."
Even if you don't like synthesizers
MMS | Spokane, WA United States | 09/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a great album, and I won't add anything to what's already been said. I just thought I'd let those who don't much like keyboards know that this is still a totally worthwhile purchase. I'd thought of trying the magnetic fields for a while but never did because I didn't think I'd like the keyboard sound that everyone talks about. They treat the keyboards so much, and warp the sound to make it so it really doesn't make a difference. The songs are strong, and I think he makes sure to never sound cheezy on the keyboard (maybe once.) Anyway the songs are so good that the way it's played doesn't matter. Plus, the keyboards really do sound very good for the most part, and serve the songs well. Guitar fanatics, give this one a try, it's an excellent piece of music."