What a Beautiful Face: A Neutral Milk Hotel Fanzine
Various contributors, ed. Katie Johnson
20 pg. at half-letter size
$3 from Pioneers Press
I feel fortunate that Neutral Milk Hotel’s two records were around, and that I was privy to them, when I was a teenager. I don’t know if I would have been able to love them so thoroughly if I hadn’t found out about them til I was grown. Their music is earnest and raw like the feelings you have before you know anything of moderation and nuance.
Because the band’s songs are both confessional and impressionistic, they’ve been able to make a whole lot of people feel like they’re speaking directly to them and to their own sorrows and joys and crushes on long-dead teenagers. I’ve listened to and sung along with their songs driving alone out on rural roads, in dorm rooms, on Greyhound buses, around drunk campfires with friends.
Published by Punch Drunk Press, What a Beautiful Face collects writing about Neutral Milk Hotel. It’s a pretty quick read, but full of a good variety of stuff. Mostly, people write about their experiences of discovering, and being moved by, their music. Adam Gnade also contributes fiction inspired by the band, and several people write about the experience of seeing Jeff Mangum play on his recent tour.
As someone with longstanding warm feelings for Neutral Milk Hotel, I really enjoyed What a Beautiful Face, and would recommend it to anyone else for whose coming-of-age was made weirder and funner and noisier by their music.
- Lily Pepper