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Mercury Rev

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Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Well it is hard to fault this album either. Mercury Rev have always been uncompromising when it comes to what they deliver as an end product. Take it or leave it, they won't bow to the record management moguls and remain determined to see fit to create a sound unique to themselves. This was their third album and it is of high quality throughout. It starts with the upbeat ' Empire Sate' which although seven minutes long kind of always feels like it is in a hurry.' Sudden Ray Of Hope' has a great hook as it gains momentum. ' Everlasting Arm' and ' Racing The Tide' the other tracks that stand out on an already highly consistent offering from Mercury Rev. It is ten years since this album was released but it still sounds and feels fresh today. Highly recommended.
Report this review (#46154)
Posted Saturday, September 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars See You On The Other Side is the third full-length studio album by American experimental rock act Mercury Rev and the first not to feature original lead singer David Baker. The album did not do as well commercially as the band had hoped for. The previous album Boces (1993) peaked at #43 in the UK charts while See You On The Other Side only peaked at #108. A big step down for the band in commercial terms and a great disappointment for the them.

After David Baker left, guitarist Jonathan Donahue took over the lead vocal role and his soft approach is very different from David Bakerīs more franticvocal style. The music on the two first albums were a kind of frantic psychadelic rock while the music on See You On The Other Side is much more mellow and focused album. I hear influences from the most psychadelic Beatles tracks but Pink Floyd ( Meddle (1971), Obscured By Clouds (1972) period) is IMO the biggest influence on the music. Those influences are mixed with a more modern mainstream rock sound which makes the music sound fresh to my ears. Not all songs are mellow. Songs like Empire State and Young Manīs Stride have some really energetic sections. The mix of psychadelic pop and mainstream rock is really succesful IMO. One of the great features on this album is the way that Suzanne Thorpeīs flute and especially her French Horn playing is incorporated into the songs. Her presense is much more dominant on this album than it was on the first albums from the band. The many psychadelic sound effects courtesy of Grasshopper really adds much to the music as well.

The musicianship is excellent on the album and in addition to the already mentioned musicians I would like to mention drummer Jimy Chambers because his playing on the album is really good and energetic which helps the songs to gain in power.

The production is excellent. I really love the way the drums sound, but every instrument is well balanced and the vocals are pleasant.

After listening to the two first albums by Mercury Rev which didnīt really suit my taste even though the quality of the music, the performance and the production were good, Iīm in safe hands with See You On The Other Side. This album is very enjoyable and much more to my taste. The first time I listened to the album I was sure I was gonna give it a 4 star rating but the more Iīve listened Iīve settled with a BIG 3 star rating. A promising change in style from Mercury Rev. I canīt wait to hear more. How this album was a commercial failure compared to the more experimental Boces is a complete mystery to me. This one has much more commercial potential while still maintaining its artistic integrity IMO. A very recommendable album for fans of mainly soft ( as mentioned there are rock songs on the album as well) and slightly psychadedic pop/ rock.

Report this review (#209364)
Posted Tuesday, March 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars "See You On The Other Side" is often seen as a transition album by fans. It's a steer away from the group's old psyche sound and nothing like "Deserter's Songs" which came along three years later. It's more symphonic than before. I've been thinking of ways to describle the music here but it isn't an easy task.

There's a nice mix of mellow and melodic rhythms with a large use of angular, even angry guitars as well as some subtle, sophisticated saxophone and synthesiser touches which create a bubbling stew of spaced out ambient rock. It is quite inspiring and requires some repeated listens. The songwriting is dark and extremely intriguing here too, (including some funny track names,) Listen to the delicious "Everlasting Arm" and the strange "A Kiss From An Old Flame (A Trip To The Moon)". The opening "Empire State" is also a highlight and I just love "Sudden Ray Of Hope" and "Racing The Tide".

For me, this is Mercury Rev at their experimental best, blending indie, pop, rock, ambient, avante-garde, trance, blues, punk and psychedelic music. Overall, this is difficult to fault. some of the bloated guitar passages can become a little overkill but somehow it all seems to get saved by the other brilliant flaunty arrangements. When digested whole, this album is a piece of genuinely creative soundwork. Four solid stars.

Report this review (#427380)
Posted Monday, April 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
5 stars After two albums, Mercury Rev had only been able to gather a cult following with their noisy and experimental sound and David Baker ended up leaving the group. Jonathan Donahue ended up slowly taking the reigns as the band leader as he had by now left 'The Flaming Lips', and the music started to move away from the noisy style to a more mellow psychedelia. Not certain how that would go over with the fans, the band also started recording albums under the name of 'Harmony Rockets', which is where the more experimental and psychedelic improvisations would go. This move to a somewhat more accessible sound would see the band move to a more successful sound.

'See You on the Other Side' would be the album that would mark this transitional period. There are still echoes of the band's noisy past here, but there would also be more melodic tracks in there too. These tracks would feature the signature orchestrated sound with their lush arrangements. All of the other band members would remain the same for this album.

'Empire State (Son House in Excelsis)' starts it all off sounding a lot like something that could have felt right at home on the band's previous album 'Boces' as it evolves into a fairly noisy and dissonant number as it continues along increasing in intensity. By the time you get halfway through the 7 minute duration, it turns quite chaotic with squeaky brass and flute, the beat picks up and the instruments sort of iron themselves out by the ending as the tempo speeds up and the flute plays an infectious melody while the background continues generating layered noise. This eventually leads into 'Young Man's Stride' which begins with a surprisingly heavy guitar riff. Donahue's vocals keep a sense of uneasiness to this track, and the sound keeps a rough edge to it, making it all seem quite a bit on the edge of sanity, ready to tip over at any time.

Things get a little smoother on 'Sudden Ray of Hope', the music is softer approaching an avant-pop sound, still a bit noisy on the chorus, but the verses have a nice, sunshiny feeling, very much like some of the off-kilter music of 'The Flaming Lips' of the time. The flute continues to be the factor in the music that seems to have a bit of sanity, but when the sax and noisy guitars come in, it gives the music that feeling that everything is still riding the edge of sanity. Almost 4 minutes in, a happy strummed guitar riff takes the music to a different place, but by the time all of the other instruments come in, everything clashes again, yet you just want to keep listening to this joyous noise. 'Everlasting Arm' moves more to the sound that the band was going to explore in later albums. There is a sense of 'Roxy Music' in there, with happy whistling and sassy sax working hard to hold it all together, but underneath is that psychedelic uneasiness and dissonance among the musical layers that continues to threaten to topple everything into chaos again.

'Riding the Tide' continues along the same style. The music is definitely softer than previous albums. However, there are still the slightly off-kilter layers of instruments that make it all sound so original, especially for the time. Where as most of the tracks up to this point seem to go from soft to loud, this one reverses that pattern, ending with a nice trumpet solo that takes the track into 'Close Encounters of the 3rd Grade' which features some wordless, almost middle-eastern improvised vocalizations sung by guest Carmen Quinones swirling around the trumpet. 'A Kiss from an Old Flame' has a cool tropical piano riff twinkling along with Jonathans odd vocals and strange bowed saw sounds. In the meantime the happy sounds of the flute and trumpet work totally against each other making for some interesting textures. 'Peaceful Night' ends most albums with a slow and nostalgic track, one that would normally be quiet and bluesy on most albums, but this has that underlying off-kilter sound going on created by piano, sax, oboe and other things playing in what seem to be microtonal tunings. The Japanese version of the album has an additional track called 'Cartwheel', a 7 minute track that is more similar to the first part of the album, more noisy and layered. If you love the music on this album, then this track definitely adds to the overall album, and it could have easily been put on the album since it needed to extend its time a bit longer anyway.

I really love this avant-experimental edge to the music that the band had during this part of their history. The unpredictable and somewhat un-hinged sound is really appelaing to me. Some might call it a bit messy, but it's supposed to be that way, and it is the thing that gives it the charm, albeit a bit dissonant, but there is always so much going on in those layers of sound. Yes it is more lush than before, but it still has a heavy psychedelic sound to it at this point in their history. The music is quite original and a bit strange, but if you know their previous albums, then you probably expect this. But this time, where the music isn't so heavy, it is sometimes even more unsettling than before. Anyway, the album is an excellent array of sounds and textures that at the time, was not a common thing in the sound of alternative music. For the next album, a lot of the music will come more into focus, but there will always be that thing that sets the band apart, the thing that always keeps the music a bit unsteady, and that is what sets it apart. There is always that level of art-rock attached to it. As for this album, it is the perfect marriage between the past sound and the upcoming style that the band would explore. It has become a favorite of mine, and is easily a 5 star album for its balance between clarity and chaos.

Report this review (#2342916)
Posted Saturday, March 14, 2020 | Review Permalink

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