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Merritt Returns To ‘Bubble-Gum Goth’ On New Album

It’s been nearly 10 years since Stephin Merritt released an album under the moniker the Gothic Archies, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been working on one.

Indeed, for every volume of the “A Series of Unfortunate Events” books that Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, has produced since 1999, the Magnetic Fields mastermind wrote a corresponding track. On Oct. 10, the Gothic Archies will round up those songs on “The Tragic Treasury: Songs From A Series of Unfortunate Events” (Nonesuch), the same week Handler’s 13th and final book in the series will be released.

In addition to the 13 tracks, Merritt also added two bonus tracks, including “Freakshow,” which he originally wrote to correspond with the book “The Carnivorous Carnival” but ultimately deemed too depressing.

“It’s an extremely upsetting song on some level, being such a freak that birds come and poop on you,” Merritt said. “This project, the Gothic Archies, revolves around this sense that the world is terrifying and ridiculous. Instead of taking the straight-ahead rock approach, it’s my bubble-gum gothic band.”

With song titles like “Smile! No One Cares How You Feel,” “The World Is a Very Scary Place” and “Dreary, Dreary,” Merritt obviously tapped into the dark sentiments of the children’s books. However, his working relationship with Handler wasn’t constrained to just the soundtrack, as Handler played accordion on several tracks on Magnetic Fields’ critically acclaimed “69 Love Songs.” Upon meeting in the late ’90s, the two also began writing a musical script together, dubbed “The Song From Venus,” which Merritt says is about two-third complete.

Merritt will join Handler on his book tour, playing ukulele while the author plays accordion. Lemony Snicket, Handler’s pseudonym, is also supposed play percussion. “Yeah, we have to figure that one out pretty soon, I guess,” Merritt says, deadpan.

Meanwhile, fans can expect two new albums from Magnetic Fields in 2007, the first of which Merritt promises “will be loud” but will not be supported with a tour. The artist also contributed the track “The Meaning of Lice” to “Plague Songs,” a compilation based on the plagues in the Old Testament of the Bible. The collection, which also features Rufus Wainwright, Imogen Heap and Brian Eno, is due Nov. 7 via 4AD.
(Katie Hasty, N.Y.