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MERCURY REV

Prog Related • United States


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Mercury Rev biography
Formed in the late 80's, this band from Buffalo started with the reunion of vocalist David Baker with part-time members of FLAMING LIPS' Jonathan Donahue (vocals, guitar) and Sean Mackowiak, known as "Grasshopper" (guitar and sound samples). Their first recordings were simply a means for creating soundtracks to experimental student films for friends and for themselves. Their music is a marriage of trippy searing noises, eerie vocals and crystalline pop with elaborate arrangements. Add some jazzy leaning and plenty of self-indulgent vibes that recall late 60's/early 70's psychedelia, and you'll get the picture. Their career can practically be split into two eras: that covering their first three albums, and the rest.

The first era, that of "Yerself Is Steam", "Boces" and "See You on the Other Side", shows the band's musical progression from indulgent psychedelic flameouts to boldly orchestrated pop soundscapes - 'See You on the Other Side" also saw the departure of their original vocalist David Baker. The band's breakthrough album, however, and the one generally considered their best, is the fourth titled "Deserter's Songs". It showcases a beautiful collection of songs mixing experimental prog, American folk rock and psychedelia with layers of strange sounds combined with tons of mellotron and, again, surreal vocals. The music is very personal, almost introspective, and often dissonantly but deliciously eerie. The subsequent album "All Is Dream" is quite similar but much darker, almost like its evil twin. As for "The Secret Migration", their last studio album, it still bears the REV's unique signature but with slightly more pop overtones.

Certainly recommended if you're into moody, trippy, unpredictable modern psychedelia.

: : : Lise (HIBOU), CANADA : : :

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MERCURY REV discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

MERCURY REV top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.08 | 15 ratings
Yerself Is Steam
1991
2.71 | 11 ratings
Boces
1993
3.64 | 14 ratings
See You On The Other Side
1995
3.58 | 41 ratings
Deserter's Songs
1998
3.89 | 30 ratings
All Is Dream
2001
3.64 | 21 ratings
The Secret Migration
2005
3.89 | 10 ratings
Snowflake Midnight
2008
3.00 | 6 ratings
Strange Attractor
2008

MERCURY REV Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
The Complete Peel Sessions
2009

MERCURY REV Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

MERCURY REV Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 1 ratings
Yerself Is Steam / Lego My Ego
1992
3.00 | 1 ratings
The Essential Mercury Rev - Stillness Breathes 1991-2006
2006

MERCURY REV Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

MERCURY REV Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Deserter's Songs by MERCURY REV album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.58 | 41 ratings

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Deserter's Songs
Mercury Rev Prog Related

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The wall of dissonance and chaos came down somewhat on the previous album "See You On the Other Side" but still remained to some extent. The recording procedure for Mercury Rev up to this point had been to record the bare bones of the song and then add layer upon layer of mostly guitar driven dissonance so the sound was chaotic, yet by the 2nd album, they had learned how to make the chaos work for the music and created some very original and wonderful music. On "Deserter's Songs" however, things change in that instead of so much guitar induced sound, the layers are created by orchestral sound and keyboards. This give a much lusher sound to the music and is so much easier to digest. The guitar is still there and an electronic saw keeps things psychedelic in some places on the album. This is a beautifully done album and it was a big step towards the next album which is a masterpiece. In the meantime, this is a great album that shows the progress made towards that masterpiece.

However, this lovely lush layered sound came about after a lot of hard times. This album was supposed to be their swan song. Since the previous album had sold so poorly, the plan was to disband after this album was recorded. However, unseen help from The Chemical Brothers who helped push this album, time spent recording in the Catskills and help on the tracks "Opus 40" and "Hudson Line" from both Levon Helm and Garth Hudson (both from The Band) helped them get their heads together and got them to focus on making this album become the best they could put together at the time. Thank goodness for this outside help, because without it "All is Dream" would never have been created.

So, the loud chaotic sound from before was completely changed making for a more lush, beautifully orchestrated wall of sound, sometimes still dissonant, sometimes harmonic, it all works together to make a nice soothing and at times a little harsh sound. That contrast works so well throughout the album, but would work even better on "All is Dream" This album is definitely worth listening to and it is easy to see how the technique would get even better to produce the masterpiece that would come next. Still this is a lovely recording full of great prog moments and original sound. This album is definitely an excellent addition to any prog collection. Original, beautiful, at times vulnerable, harsh overtones but not enough to put you off, this is an album that should be explored and it has more progressive elements than what you might expect. Great stuff and a foreshadowing of even better yet to come.

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 The Secret Migration by MERCURY REV album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.64 | 21 ratings

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The Secret Migration
Mercury Rev Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars On The Secret Migration Mercury Rev play a blissful, transcendent variety of psychedelic indie rock which comes across as a smoother and more laid-back version of the thornier and more hard-edged psych freakouts of their sister band, The Flaming Lips. Supposedly it's a concept album, though I didn't really detect much of a concept myself - either way, if you miss the blissful, tranquil airs of 60s psychedelic pop and wonder what the indie rock world would make of them, you need look no further than this album, which I think is a neo-psychedelic classic on a par with The Flaming Lips' Yoshimi vs. the Pink Robots.

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 All Is Dream by MERCURY REV album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.89 | 30 ratings

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All Is Dream
Mercury Rev Prog Related

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Although I have heard a few other Mercury Rev albums, the only one that I am intimately familiar with is All is Dream. This is alternative music but it has a lot of prog elements to is and that is probably what drew me to this album. I heard the song "Nite and Fog" and loved it for the lyrics and the odd yet beautiful harmonies of the instruments. I then bought the album and fell in love with it immediately. It has not wore itself out since then, I still love it.

What makes it so unique? I have to say that the vulnerability of the tracks (especially the first four). Prog is usually so flamboyant and certain of itself (not that this is a bad thing). But here, the uncertainty that is apparent throughout this album is what makes it so beautiful, haunting and different. The strings are very dramatic and almost overproduced in the first track and this works so wonderfully against the vulnerable vocals (the falsetto to me sounds a lot like Neil Young's falsetto). Most of this is album is mellow but certainly not uninteresting ever. The second track continues the same tone minus the orchestra but with a new and unique melody. Lincoln's Eyes seems like a lullaby at first but turns out more intense later and during the insturmental break splits into a guitar solo with some dissonent things going on underneath. There is a short Intermezzo before the next track which uses some nice electronics and a bowed saw. This moves us into the next part of the album which uses psychadelia and pop sensibility to make some more accesible tracks for the album. This might seem like a turn off to many proggers, but if only pop music were like this....we would all be listening to better music now if this were the case. These next songs are still beautiful and definately are not filler. Nite and Fog as I said is the song that attracted me to the album in the first place. This is followed by more of the same....excellent yet accesible songs of the highest calibre. These songs demand your attention even if they are simple. The last track is Hercules and is a fine ending for the album. Vocal, guitar and piano start the track out simply and as the next verse starts, it becomes more intense. The chorus continues the build as the piano introduces a nice chord progression which the guitar soon picks up and follows and this continues the build of the song. At the second instrumental breaks, the tension breaks as an electric solo breaks in and the drums pound out a firm, decisive rhythm and all of the vulnerability and dissonance is resolved. The redemption is finally reached now at the end of the album.

Both the lyrics and the instrumentals are important to this album, but so is the production, well produced yet still unsure of itself. In my opinion, everything is used to it's utmost to make this a masterpiece of progressive rock and as I said before, the thing that makes this a masterpiece (and as a masterpiece it should be unique) is it's use of prog and vulnerability. Perfection that becomes more apparent as you listen to it more and more.

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 Snowflake Midnight by MERCURY REV album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.89 | 10 ratings

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Snowflake Midnight
Mercury Rev Prog Related

Review by Frankie Flowers

4 stars Mercury Rev created an extraordinarily lush and vivid soundworld on 'Snowflake Midnight'. This is far deeper into ambient psych than the band's previous offerings. The usual imaginative lyrics drop in and out and it manages the odd echo of the previous trio of their albums without ever sounding like a copy. Though the music here is more densely constructed. There's some great atmospheric piano, various kinds of percussion, including beatbox, hard edged guitar, all over Donahue's high floating vocals. 'Butterfly's Wing' also has haunting children's voices. A very magic garden of sound. I particularly like 'People Are So Unpredictable' which takes us into almost complete ambient territory with its delicate tapestry of shifting synth chords. It's certainly demanding and doesn't lend itself easily to being background music. But it does have the capacity to keep surprising you. I don't know how many times I'd been through it before the bizarre drumming and the strange elements that make up 'Dream of a Young Girl as a Flower' finally struck me. That track is like an exercise in throwing everything that shouldn't be in one song together and still coming up with a beautiful and strange concoction. It is certainly a far cry from the group's successful Deserters Songs. If you want to hear some fearless sonic pioneers with a love of psychedelia, pushing the envelope on strange sounds, definitely investigate this. It's very engaging and uplifting as well as challenging. If you like this, I strongly urge you to get 'Strange Attractor', else it's just incomplete. Four soild stars!

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 The Secret Migration by MERCURY REV album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.64 | 21 ratings

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The Secret Migration
Mercury Rev Prog Related

Review by Frankie Flowers

4 stars The Secret Migration is wonderful. It has an earthy, natural beauty. The lyrics are magical too and float over the group's stunning psychedelic tapestry.

The dark 'Secret for a Song' and the elegant 'My Love', are immensely pleasurable tracks.I also absolutely love "Across Yer Ocean" and "Diamonds" The musicianship is marvellous throughout, especially the piano and keyboard work as well as the howling guitars.

It is hard to find faults with this album. One minor complaint is that there is simply not enough variety, with none of the suprise of the previous two releases. Nonetheless, all of the tracks are really great.

There is something special about Mercury Rev. Dare I say, there will never be anything made like this again. In my opinion, this band are one of the most underlooked and dynamic of the last couple of decades. This, along with "All Is Dream" represents them at the pinnacle of their creativity. This is more than worth giving a few spins to capture the magic. Four solid stars.

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 All Is Dream by MERCURY REV album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.89 | 30 ratings

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All Is Dream
Mercury Rev Prog Related

Review by Frankie Flowers

5 stars "All Is Dream" is absolutely brilliant, enchanting and extraordinary. The band's approach is a step up from the orchestral turn of Deserter's Songs. Musically, it is even more symphonic and darker. Jonathan Donahue's dreamy voice and lyrics are wonderful and here he sings some of the oddest love songs you're ever likely to hear.

I have had this on CD since it's release in 2001 and the music never tires, just listen to the opening "Dark Is Rising and the melancholy, floating "Nite And Fog" with the flowing strings and Fridmann's buoyant bassline. "Tides of the Moon" places you into another dimension. It is poweful and mysterious. I particularly love the unsettling, howling guitar work here. Other key points are the swirling beauty of "Lincoln's Eyes" and "A Drop in Time," which both share some intriguing, creeping riddles.

I love the dark, driving rocker "Chains". It also has a gorgeous bowed-saws outro. "Little Rhymes" makes the most from its beautiful pedal steel lines, accentuating Donahue's melody without obscuring it and "Spiders and Flies" proves the band doesn't always need fancy instrumentation to put the point across. This one is a simple piano ballad and stands as the most affecting song on the album. As Mercel caresses the keys, Donahue hauntingly confesses his fears. And, with shocking ease, the band shifts from these depths into the sleepy final track, "Hercules." There couldn't be a more splendid closer.

This album has really found a place in my heart. It's rare to find something so intelligent, graceful and strangely emotional. All of the tracks are great and more reviewers on this site should definitely hear them. 5 stars.

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  See You On The Other Side  by MERCURY REV album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.64 | 14 ratings

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See You On The Other Side
Mercury Rev Prog Related

Review by Frankie Flowers

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.

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 Yerself Is Steam by MERCURY REV album cover Studio Album, 1991
3.08 | 15 ratings

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Yerself Is Steam
Mercury Rev Prog Related

Review by Frankie Flowers

3 stars Mercury Rev's debut is an early nineties psych album. It's very much of its time but in a good way. In the mid-90's I found a cassette of this left in an old house, took it home and gave it some listens. It might be incomprehensible at first and leave the listener slightly winded with it's cacophony of psychedelic noise. I felt that way to be honest and didn't hear anything of band again until they released Deserter's Songs in 1998. I revisited this early stuff recently though and now I quite like it.

The opener "Chasing a Bee" is quite a powerful song beginning with a light acoustic riff which progresses to epic proportions. David Baker's voice is very deep compared to the more higher-pitched singing of Jon Donahue.

"Syringe Mouth" has some brutal guitar feedback whilst "Blue And Black" is lighter with some meandering piano. The lyrics are very odd and twisted throughout. With "Coney Island Cyclone" the band demonstrate their appreciation for sweet melodies but not without a chaotic climax. Conversely, Very Sleeping Rivers is a whirring disturbed track of much greater length and ambience.

This is Mercury Rev at their most weird and whimsical. For me, it isn't the most wonderful thing they have ever accomplished. Their later sound is a lot better. But this is still interesting. 3 stars.

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 Deserter's Songs by MERCURY REV album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.58 | 41 ratings

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Deserter's Songs
Mercury Rev Prog Related

Review by Frankie Flowers

4 stars This was the start of the Mercury Rev I like best. It's dreamy, unworldly and strangely beautiful. I always found that Donahue's high pitched vocals also play a big part in setting their extraordinary mood.

I'd agree with others that this is probably the most accessible of thier albums and also not so progressive, but wouldn't be a bad start for checking them out. Deserter's Songs marked the beginning of a slightly new style that the band would work deeper on later. It's a lot less experimental than some earlier albums by the band and more symphonic. "Holes" is a great starter, with some very surreal lyrics. "Tonite It Shows" and "Endlessly" are favourites of mine and are just perfect examples of the new flavour. These tracks include some bowed saw to add to the psychedelic weirdness.

"Goddess On A Hiway" was the most well known of the tracks at the time. I quite like "Funny Bird" and even the warped "Pick Up If You're There. The Happy End (The Drunk Room) is a short, slightly irritating moment but it does have some character.

The success of this album came as a surprise for the band who were otherwise sure to split after it's release. There was a disappointing lack of success with previous albums. Well it's a good job they didn't spilt because the next album was even better and darker than this one. 4 stars.

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 Deserter's Songs by MERCURY REV album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.58 | 41 ratings

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Deserter's Songs
Mercury Rev Prog Related

Review by seventhsojourn
Special Collaborator RPI

3 stars Deserter's Songs was highly acclaimed in the UK on its release in 1998 and was even named NME Album of the Year, although it seems to be little known on ProgArchives and has only received a handful of reviews here. I always feel as if I'm at the movies when I listen to kooky indie rockers Mercury Rev, which maybe isn't that odd as their early recordings were created as soundtracks for experimental student films. There are three instrumental tracks on Deserter's Songs that sound as if they could have been composed for the likes of David Lynch's Eraserhead, and ENDLESSLY sounds like backing music from Edward Scissorhands. This is a typically quirky song with weird celestial choral effects and a Silent Night flute motif. On the subject of instrumentation on the album, the list of personnel reads like a swinger's lil' black book and features numerous guest appearances including contributions from members of The Band. Every instrument known to man seems to get used on the album, including one or two improvised ones such as bowed saw.

Overall, Deserter's Songs is an album of the middling sort although there are a few outstanding tracks such as the soaring pop ballad GODDESS ON A HIWAY that features clever homonymous word play. The ghostly-sounding HOLES is a densely orchestrated song about little moles. Ahhhh! If I may borrow from the song's own lyrics it's a 'big blue open sea' of a song, and is as beautiful a piece of music as you'll hear anytime soon. TONITE IT SHOWS reminds me a little of Barclay James Harvest's Moongirl, which in its turn sounds a bit like Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds I suppose. OPUS 40 shows a clear Pet Sounds influence and it contrasts sharply with the screaming guitar of the heavily psychedelic THE FUNNY BIRD. Lead singer Jonathan Donahue's vocals are treated with phasing or some such on the latter song and his natural singing voice is a bit of an acquired taste. Mercury Rev is a band that's well worth checking-out, but bear in mind that the mp3/stream here on ProgArchives isn't all that representative of the music on this and later albums.

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