TVD Radar: The Magnetic Fields, The House of Tomorrow 30th anniversary reissue in stores 1/28

VIA PRESS RELEASE | On January 28, 2022, Merge will reissue The House of Tomorrow, one of the earliest releases from The Magnetic Fields. Never before released as a 12-inch, this 30th anniversary remastered edition of The House of Tomorrow is available on opaque spring green vinyl (as well as basic black). But don’t press bandleader Stephin Merritt to discuss the color’s charms, please. “My favorite shade of green is brown.”

When Susan Anway, who sang on early albums Distant Plastic Trees and The Wayward Bus, left the group, Stephin stepped up to the microphone. “This was my first time singing on record,” he recalls. He sought to sound simple, subtle, and unobtrusive, à la the Japanese concept of shibusa. “But now, listening back, I hear a little too much vocal influence from the Jesus and Mary Chain. (I really should move to Scotland. I belong there.)”

A departure from the largely electronic setup of the first two albums, the arrangements and production of The House of Tomorrow show an increase in Merritt recording using live instruments played by himself and his band members. Despite this, Stephin resisted the typical “rock and roll” sound: “I wanted to have rock instrumentation, plus cello (so ELO without keyboards), but everyone was tracked separately so there was no question of sounding like we were playing together,” explains Stephin. Instead, he chose to highlight the artifice. Voilà! “The drums are like Tusk only more so, the cello sounds like a synth, and the guitars might as well be programmed.”

The House of Tomorrow rose in stature upon re-release on compact disc in 1996, with a new addition, “Alien Being” (previously relegated to the flip of the “Long Vermont Roads” single), boosting its modest track list from four songs to five. The limits of technology had stymied plans the first time: “You can’t fit five two-and-a-half–minute songs on a 7” record, even at 33rpm.”

From World’s Fairs and Disneyland to Tex Avery and Hanna-Barbera cartoons, visions of the home of the future have long been popular. Although this new vinyl edition of The House of Tomorrow includes an etching of Buckminster Fuller’s visionary D.I.Y. Dymaxion House, Stephin laments the sluggish pace of architectural innovation. What is his dream home? “I want to live in Barbarella’s spaceship, with my neighbors being the Jetsons, floating defiantly over Edinburgh Castle.”

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