(from the manuscript in progress)
If he’d released them as a series of albums — 18 Love Songs, 15 More Songs About Love, Nine Songs for Bored Lovers (and a Song of Thwarted Hope), 16 Love Songs Involving the Wondrous Accordion, and the 10-track promotional release Love at Leeds — would anyone but diehards ever have given a shit about Stephin Merritt’s showpiece/monsterpiece, or bothered listening? Part of the genius of the work is the fact that it’s too big, specifically this much too big, never mind the marketing hook of the whole 69 thing, ‘ha ha.’ Well, love is too big, specifically (for some people, sometimes) that much too big, and its dual status as narrative series and random-access collection says something (to us, sometimes) about its subject. It’s all these things and not the sense you make of them, but go ahead make sense; the album’s a lot like love, and love is a landscape. You occupy it and vice versa. It makes sense of you. You should move freely inside it while you can, so that sensemaking goes on when you leave. It doesn’t all make sense. You’re too smart for your own good, dumb as a post, needy, infinite, still giggle or primly purse your lips at the number 69, got it figured out, nowhere close to figuring it out. Any of it.
I’m not kidding about genius either. It’s probably ‘too big’ and a few of the songs are wastes of space on their own terms, but that’s the thing — each song’s terms are shaped by that very stupid mega/metacontext. You can only hear these tunes as part of the larger thing, which is truer in itself than any willfully insincere piece would ever cop to being. You can only tell someone so many details about a mountain, can only answer ‘What’s it like?’ so many times, before you have to point to the top and say ‘Just go already.’ The whole thing is the truth. Love is a landscape.