Album Cover
The Microphones
Live in Japan
February 03, 2004


I honestly don't remember much of Mount Eerie. I gave it a stupid review because I was upset that it was unlike The Glow, pt. 2 or It Was Hot, We Stayed In the Water, and deleted it (that is .. sold my legitimate copy) shortly thereafter, vowing never to listen to it again, because Phil Elvrum was dead to me, dead, dead, grr (although I would still listen to and love his past albums). I don't know. Maybe it was good, maybe it wasn't as different as I was imagining. It was certainly interesting, and showed signs of being sort of like the other albums, but, I imagined, indicated a future catalog of horrible pretentiousness, as opposed to the beautiful pretentiousness I wanted.

I would have liked it more, I think, had Live in Japan been released first. This album/concert documents the change in style from beautiful Glow pt. 2ism to generally less approachable Mount Eerieness. With the change done gradually, as it is here, the difference is less jarring and easier to deal with. While the songs on the album aren't outstanding, they at least give the listener a vague idea of just what happened.

This is barely a live album. I suppose it is by the traditional definition; it is a recording of a performance for an audience, but the sound is as about as hi-fi or studio-quality as The Glow, the audience seems small, quiet and inobtrusive, and these are all new songs. Phil's voice sounds far less personal than on past albums, but everything else sounds more or less like a studio recording.

Most of the songs, though, just aren't very interesting. They start out strong - "Great Ghosts" and "The Blow, pt. 2" recall The Glow particularly well, but, unfortunately, nothing else on the album measures up to these first two tracks. The eleven minute "Universe Conclusion" plods sort of dully, leading to a brief moment of the rockingest Elvrum has ever sounded, but the one minute of this is outweighed by ten minutes of uninteresting. "We Squirm" is a brief but pleasant Glowish tune, with the same sort of irregular meter; the tune was clearly written to fit lyrics that were previously written, in that nothing strikes you as immediately melodic, but more as poetry put to shifting pitch.

Here he begins playing with the audience, offering up brief minute-long snippets of guitarless lullabyish singing; in "My Favorite Things", he sings a tune of dog bites and bee stings that would put a small child to sleep and strike anyone else as kind of odd. The audience appreciates this and laughs afterward. His adaptation of the Christmas tune "Silent Night" gets another laugh from the audience before his altered lyrics appear: "Tiny voices egg on the fight / Offering choices like mercy or might / While outside the wind in the trees / Roars that my war's a disease." Both tunes are nice enough, but seem overly goofy and unecessary. "After N. Young" is another brief tune and another high point of the show; Elvrum's vocals and guitar build upon each other nicely, and recall the style of It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water. The remainder of the album is more like Mount Eerie than anything else, and have various high points in them, but are ultimately unmemorable.

So while this album is disappointingly spotty and forgettable, it helped me to accept the new Microphones for what they were. And if you liked The Glow, It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water, Mount Eerie, or anything else the Microphones have done, you're bound to find at least something here that you'll remember and like.

Noah Jackson

Track List

  1. Great Ghosts
  2. The Blow, pt. 2
  3. Universe Conclusion
  4. We Squirm
  5. My Favorite Things
  6. Silent Night
  7. After N. Young
  8. Climb Over
  9. I Love You So Much!
  10. I Have Been Told That My Skin is Exceptionally Smooth
  11. Thanksgiving