LD & the New Criticism

Amoral Certitudes

by Jennifer Kelly

13 August 2008

 

LD Beghtol, of Flares, is maybe best known for his work with Magnetic Fields, and particularly for the “Field Guide” he wrote for that 3-disc opus, a song-by-song commentary on Flares member Stephin Merritt’s work. Not many songwriters have their own dedicated explicators, so Beghtol, in his own work, must perform both functions, both writing the filmy, lo-fi tunes that bear his name and, within their lyrics, commenting on them. His statement of purpose, comes right up front, in the brief “Love Theme from LD and TNC”, when he says “It’s the song, not the singer/It’s the bell, not the ringer/It’s the text, not the guy who penned it/Now this one is done/So I’ll end it.” That’s an argument for close textural reading, an approach hinted at in the band name New Criticism. And why not, when there are ironic, self-referential nuggets embedded into nearly every line? “AKA Paradise” one-ups the world-weary with a winking, “Don’t tell me you’ve heard this all before/‘Cause I’ve heard that ten too many times,” while short “Light Verse”, sums art and posterity in a sly brace of couplets, “The history of light verse/Is a bitter one, and terse/As life, unlike this song/Simply goes on far too long.”  Not all the songs are quite so self-contained and smirky, though. “What You Will,” opens up nicely thanks to the soft country singing of Dana Kletter, while the Lisa Germano cover, “If I Think of Love”, imbues its thesaurus dump of words with wistful feeling. Brainy, intricate and faintly provocative, these are not so much songs as quotation-bracketed essays on pop.

Amoral Certitudes

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