As it is, the vocalist/guitarist/songwriter was an integral creative force in three of the most eclectic and far-reaching bands of the ’90s, all under the umbrella of what became known as the Elephant 6 collective; The Apples in Stereo, Olivia Tremor Control and his own mind-blowing outfit, Neutral Milk Hotel (NMH).
Mangum recorded with friends and alone under various guises before establishing Neutral Milk Hotel (one of his musical pseudonyms) as an actual band, although the band was typically comprised of whoever was handy at the moment. After a number of demo tapes, NMH released its proper debut, 1996’s On Avery Island, followed two years later by the group’s avowed masterpiece, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.
Inspired by Jewish refugee Anne Frank’s tragic tale, Aeroplane was an amazing blend of swirling Psychedelia and Pop melodicism, combined with Mangum’s often entertainingly impenetrable lyrics.
And that was essentially the end of Neutral Milk Hotel; Mangum has played on a number of friends’ albums (OTC, Elf Power, Circulatory System) and done sporadic shows, on his own and with other people’s bands.
Aeroplane was re-issued by Domino eight years ago with testimonials from fans like The Arcade Fire and Franz Ferdinand, and, in 2010, Mangum began making the occasional live appearance again, including an impromptu set for Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York City. Last year, Mangum did a limited West Coast tour around his appearance at the Coachella Festival and this past spring, the band made the surprising announcement that the Aeroplane-era lineup would reunite for an extensive fall/winter tour.A percentage of the concert proceeds and a dollar from each vinyl box-set (which includes NMH’s complete catalog along with unreleased tracks and typically cool artwork) will be donated to the Children of the Blue Sky charity, which helps abandoned children in Mongolia (as if you needed an altruistic reason to see Neutral Milk Hotel). Money for the charity is definitely amassing — like Monday’s show in Covington, Ky., most of the band’s reunion shows have sold out almost instantly.
NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL plays with Elf Power Monday, Oct. 14 for a sold-out show at Madison Theater in Covington, Ky. Check out performance times and get venue details here.