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MERCURY REV

Prog Related • United States


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Mercury Rev biography
Founded in Buffalo, USA in 1989

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 Videos (YouTube and more)


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Bobbie Gentry's The Delta Sweete RevisitedBobbie Gentry's The Delta Sweete Revisited
PTKF 2019
$11.99
$7.95 (used)
Deserter's SongsDeserter's Songs
Excelsior Melodies 2018
$18.98
See You on the Other SideSee You on the Other Side
Beggars Banquet Intl 2003
$7.57
$1.44 (used)
The Light In YouThe Light In You
Bella Union 2015
$5.92
$1.90 (used)
Hello BlackbirdHello Blackbird
VIRTUAL LABEL GROUP 2016
$8.99
$8.96 (used)
Deserter's SongsDeserter's Songs
Imports 2006
$6.72
$1.69 (used)
Essential: Stillness Breathes 1991-2006Essential: Stillness Breathes 1991-2006
V2 Int'l 2006
$16.99
$10.27 (used)

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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)

3.26 | 20 ratings
Yerself Is Steam
1991
0.00 | 0 ratings
Lego My Ego
1992
3.00 | 14 ratings
Boces
1993
3.63 | 15 ratings
See You On The Other Side
1995
0.00 | 0 ratings
Paralyzed Mind of the Archangel Void
1995
3.60 | 47 ratings
Deserter's Songs
1998
3.89 | 34 ratings
All Is Dream
2001
3.65 | 23 ratings
The Secret Migration
2005
0.00 | 0 ratings
Hello Blackbird (Soundtrack)
2006
3.88 | 11 ratings
Snowflake Midnight
2008
3.28 | 8 ratings
Strange Attractor
2008
0.00 | 0 ratings
Angels Are Spirits, Flames of Fire
2012
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Crawling Journey of the Serpents Starry Night
2012
0.00 | 0 ratings
Inner Autumn Outer Space
2013
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Light In You
2015
0.00 | 0 ratings
Lachesis / Clotho / Atropos (w/Peter Walker)
2018
4.00 | 1 ratings
Bobbie Gentry's The Delta Sweete Revisited
2019

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

0.00 | 0 ratings
The Complete Peel Sessions
2009
0.00 | 0 ratings
Live in Brixton '92
2012

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

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

4.00 | 2 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)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Car Wash Hair
1991
0.00 | 0 ratings
Chasing a Bee
1992
0.00 | 0 ratings
If You Want Me to Stay
1992
0.00 | 0 ratings
Something for Joey
1993
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Hum is Coming from Her
1993
0.00 | 0 ratings
Spiritualized Electric Mainline/Mercury Rev Split
1993
0.00 | 0 ratings
Everlasting Arm / Dead Man
1994
0.00 | 0 ratings
I've Got a Golden Ticket
1997
0.00 | 0 ratings
Goddess on a Hiway + 5
1998
0.00 | 0 ratings
Opus 40
1999
0.00 | 0 ratings
Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp
1999
0.00 | 0 ratings
Holes
1999
0.00 | 0 ratings
Untitled
1999
0.00 | 0 ratings
Black Session 170
2001
0.00 | 0 ratings
Nite and Fog
2001
0.00 | 0 ratings
Little Rhymes
2002
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Dark is Rising
2002
0.00 | 0 ratings
In a Funny Way
2004
0.00 | 0 ratings
Across Yer Ocean
2005
0.00 | 0 ratings
Senses on Fire
2008
0.00 | 0 ratings
Remixes
2008
0.00 | 0 ratings
Beyond the Swirling Clouds, An Evening at Barrowland Ballroom
2011

MERCURY REV Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Bobbie Gentry's The Delta Sweete Revisited by MERCURY REV album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Bobbie Gentry's The Delta Sweete Revisited
Mercury Rev Prog Related

Review by TCat
Collaborator Eclectic Team

— First review of this album —
4 stars Mercury Rev is one of those bands that never fails to surprise. Moving easily from dream-pop to noise rock to psychedelic rock to electronic, they cover all bases while still retaining their experimental uniqueness all the while. So, with the release of their new album 'Bobbie Gentry's The Delta Sweete Revisited', they take a long ignored and forgotten album, and try to bring it back out into the light to get the attention that they feel it deserves.

Of course, most everyone knows the song 'Ode to Billy Joe' which was quite successful in its time, but when the album 'The Delta Sweete' was originally released, it fell between the folk rock albums released by Bob Dylan and The Byrds 'Sweetheart of the Rodeo', and they ended up taking all of the attention away from Gentrie's album, which also deserved attention for its story telling detail and dark folk-country style. Who would have thought that Mercury Rev would be the ones to revive it? However, knowing that Jesse Chandler, one of Mercury Rev's core musicians, also played with 'Midlake' (listed on the Archives under Prog Folk) has experience with this style of music, and of course Jonathan Donahue and Sean 'Grasshopper' Mackowiak both appreciate exploring new territory, so they got together several female artists, some well known and current and others more up-and-coming, to sing the vocals for the 12 songs on the album. We end up with an album with respected musicians like Norah Jones, Hope Sandoval, Margo Price, Beth Orton and Lucinda Williams among others contributing their talents to this project.

Since I am a fan of Mercury Rev and also love alternative country/indie folk (secondary to Prog Rock of course), I was naturally drawn to this album, which was released in February of 2019. I am a little ashamed that it slipped by my radar for a few months, but when I ran across a listing for this album while updating Mercury Rev's discography for Prog Archives, I ran across this album and was completely intrigued. Right off the bat, Norah Jones lends her vocals to 'Oklona River Bottom Band'. With her airy and mysterious vocals with her jazz-inclined harmonics and sensibilities (also her own foray into indie-folk with her band 'Little Willies'), she give just the right amount of sultry, humid atmosphere. The psychedelic leanings of Mercury Rev give the exact amount of dark mystery that surround the original record, but in this remake, the sound is nicely updated and made current. Synth and piano flourishes are fitted in perfectly to the smoldering emotions behind the song.

Another big surprise is the cover of Luther Dixon's 'Big Boss Man' done with Gentry's attitude, but sung by Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star) and with the mix of electronic effects, piano and traditional instruments, the song feels more lush than it does bluesy, but there is nothing wrong with that, it ends up being a lovely cover. Rachel Goswell (from the shoegaze band 'Slowdive') does the vocal for 'Reunion', and we get to hear her full voice at a fuller volume than what we usually hear from her. The track moves with more hesitancy, with sultry harmonica and a dirty western flair, but also with a less traditional style, while snippets of a child's taunting song echo in the melody. An interesting choice for a vocalist comes next in Carice van Houten, who played the red witch in 'Game of Thrones'. She has also released a few solo albums, but for most people, this might be the first time hearing her voice. She covers 'Parchman Farm' which starts abruptly with loud effects, and becoming very psychedelic-like, more than anything that has come before on this album. The use of the effects, traditional instruments and psychedelic music give this a 'spaghetti-western' feel and van Houten's vocals match it perfectly. Sultry and mysterious, just like you would imagine Melisandre would sing.

'Mornin' Glory' is a bit brighter, and has a Janis Ian vibe to it. It is sung by 'Sterolab's' Laetitia Sadler and her voice blends well with the more symphonic feel of the song, heavy with orchestration effects, it gives the feeling of an old soundtrack song from the 60's, nice and expressive especially in the instrumentation. 'Sermon' is vocalized by the alt-country star Margo Price, who has worked a lot with Jack White and Third Man Records as of late. Margo has that old country star style, and her voice works perfectly for this dark country sound. Her vocals are surrounded by a sparser instrumental background, allowing her dramatic storytelling talent to shine through, as she carries the track along. The instrumentals are very sustained and layered, but kept to the background. 'Tobacco Road' is covered by Norwegian singer Susanne Sundfor. Her vocals deal well with the minor key and also swell very nicely when needed, you can hear why she is such a huge star in her home country, and a slight resemblance to Adele, but with a much wider range as is shown in this track. The flavors and styles change throughout the track, yet the vocals and instrumentation move along seamlessly.

At this point, the next three tracks take on a more experimental feel, but this also gives some depth and variety to the album. They tend to venture away from the originals with a psychedelic feel, yet orchestral in nature, although it is all done with keyboards and other effects, the feeling is full and interesting. Beth Orton, who is already known for mixing folk and electronic genres, does an excellent rendition of 'Courtyard' over meandering, yet appropriate instrumental background. The combination of her and Mercury Rev is perfect, her powerful vocals cutting through everything else. Beautiful! 'Ode to Billie Joe', the final track, and most popular of course, is sung by alt-country artist Lucinda Williams. Her vocals have a sultry, yet punkish attitude on this cover, with even more attitude than the original. Typically, I like Williams vocals, but I almost feel they are a little too forced here as she tries too hard to bring character to the song, which really didn't need that additional personality. The music itself is as excellent as it is through the entire album, just the right amount of everything.

Through all of these guest vocalists, the thing tying things together quite successfully is the instrumental backdrops, performed, of course, by Mercury Rev. They use traditional and electronic instruments quite well together, and it works amazingly well. Seeing that each song is sung by a different female artist, one can worry that this album will just end up like a bad various artist collection, disjointed and inconsistent. However, this is not the case, and that is all because of the consistency of Mercury Rev's instrumental accompaniment, which is more than just accompaniment, it is the anchor for this album. Most of the vocal performances are excellent, though a few of them suffer on the last third of the album, the one thing that remains high quality and amazing is the instrumentation. So you get so much more than a various artists collection, you get a concise and tight album. The music is quite orchestral, but includes some wonderful use of traditional instruments and it all works quite splendidly.

The big question is, how to rate this album. Sure there is that touch of psychedlia to it all, and some experimentation, but it is not really progressive. Most of the performances are perfect as is the instrumentation which gives the songs brand new life without taking away their original attitude. It is mostly quite masterfully done. But, since it isn't prog, it can't be considered essential, yet it deserves better than only 3 stars. So, I give it an excellent rating as it is something that fits well in any rock music (folk music) collection. Folk prog? Well, possibly, but not quite. 4 stars, anyway. Definitely one for the alt-country, indie-folk lover, who likes a little psychedelic flair to their music.

 Strange Attractor by MERCURY REV album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.28 | 8 ratings

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Strange Attractor
Mercury Rev Prog Related

Review by TCat
Collaborator Eclectic Team

4 stars Mercury Rev is one of those bands that I have been very fascinated with. They have this thing about releasing albums simultaneously, though not always readily apparent as they have been known to use pseudonyms, including 'Harmony Rockets'. That was not so much the case with the digital album 'Strange Attractor' which was released as a free download at the same time as the physical album release of 'Snowflake Midnight', which was released in the traditional 'brick and mortar' store manner. Many times, the style of music on these simultaneous releases can contrast quite a bit, as much as their separate albums do. The fact that in one instance, they can release a psychedelic, noisy album, at the same time, they release a lush, dream pop album. It is for this reason that I am so attracted to their music. And the most interesting thing is, even with this contrast of styles, I end up loving them in the end, even when I absolutely hated them in the beginning, for example, with 'Yerself is Steam'. My first foray into their music was with 'All is Dream' which has become one of my all-time favorite albums, and I loved it from the beginning, but when I heard 'Yerself is Steam', I hated it. But it grew on me. A lot.

So, this issue with 'Strange Attractor', released in 2008 alongside 'Snowflake Midnight' These are not necessarily companion albums, per se. Strange Attractor never was intended to be a popular album, and it was released with very little notice. It is an album of all instrumental tracks, mostly moody, dreamy and somewhat ambient, yet rich and full. It really is no wonder that this band can be so unpredictable. It was originally formed to produce soundtracks for films. In fact, many of the songs in their first album were derived from unused soundtrack music. Also, the head person in the band is Jonathan Daniel Donahue, who also was a member of 'The Flaming Lips' for some time and played on a few of their albums. Those who have any knowledge of The Flaming Lips know how quirky their music can be. Another main contributor to Merury Rev's sound was David Baker, at least during the first few albums. He has since left the band, and the overall sound of the band has changed since, but it is all still very unique and original. Grasshopper (Sean Thomas Mackowiak), guitarist, is also a regular band member of Mercury Rev and the side project Harmony Rockets.

The album starts with 'Love is Pure' (6:54) which is a beautiful track using a repeating processed piano loop, layers of strings and atmospheric, dreamy effects made by various instruments. Percussion comes in at 3 minutes, and the track builds with layers of sound produced from guitars, electronics, percussion and synths. Things suddenly break down at 5 minutes and music shimmers in and out as it all cools down. This is a beautifully orchestrated track that comes off as one of their best. 'Taken Up Into Clouds'' (1:43) uses tonal percussion and lush synths to create an eargasm of beauty. 'Pure Joie de la Solitude' (2:51) uses a low register, oscillating sound for the foundation and a high pitched, melodic synth to begin. A percussive loop gives an anchor to the sound and guitars and synths create some soft layers of sound and music.

'Persistence and the Apis Mellifera' (3:52) uses sustained synths for a foundation that ebb and flow while a strange effect warbles over the top. A shimmering keyboard gives more depth to the sound and little snippets of brassy notes echo around everything as more sounds and textures, all musical, come and go. This sounds a bit like some of 'Ulver's' soundtrack instrumentals. Very nice, a bit unsettling, and textural. 'Fable of a Silver Moon' (1:14) is a short, melodic piece using synths with woodwind effects and guitar loops. This one is too short and sounds like it could have developed into something nice. 'Loop, Lisse, Loop' (4:27) has a slightly more upbeat sound, with a bit of a spy soundtrack sound to it. Pizzicato sounds and spacey sounds swirl around together and sudden eruptions of heavier, almost orchestral hits, pop up giving it all a dramatic feel. This one definitely has the 'lovely-yet-slightly-off-kilter' feel of a lot of Mercury Rev's later works with some 'Yello' style electronics added in for flavor. Orchestrated loops create an exciting and interesting track.

'In My Heart, A Strange Attractor' (5:27) puts a guitar through a processor to create a hollow, metallic tone and spacey sounds. This all develops into a more lush sound as acoustic guitar and synth build orchestral sounding layers. Sustained string effects come in later, the music glitches off for a pause, and then returns with a soft percussion moving it all ahead at a faster rate. There are some very nice textures and tones that will keep you listening, wondering how they are created. 'Incident on Abeel Street' (2:15) uses high pitched electronic notes seemingly at random, but still creating an almost melodic feel.

'Af den Fader Kommer den Sol' (2:36) is also made up of electronic tones and synth layers for a softer and more lush sound than the previous track. 'Because, Because, Because' (3:26) feels a little more traditional as far as popular music goes with a soft percussive sound that later speeds up while sustained synth chords play along, similar to an electronic soundscape produced by Tangerine Dream. 'Nocturne for Norwood' (5:39) is made up of ebbing and flowing layers, but this is taken over by an actual melody played on a processed piano with a lot of reverb. Spacey vocals effects that are almost operatic come and go through out the track. Calling this a nocturne is very justified as it is peaceful and relaxing. Spoken word vocals, probably a field recording, it seems from some sporting event, come in halfway through, but they are mostly indiscernible as they are fairly soft while sustained and floating synths continue to the end.

These instrumentals are exquisite and beautiful, full of lush layers, and each one as it's own personality and feeling. When I listen to this band, I find I am almost always taken by their music, and always wondering where they will go next, but, only with a few exceptions, they seldom disappoint. While their music as of late has been quite otherworldly and dreamy, it still has attractive qualities to it that seem to speak to something deep inside. As long as they make music, I will be exploring it. I often wish that this band could be more popular on this site, because they have some amazing music, but then, I know it's not always for everybody, but I do know that it is music that I love, at least for the most part. This album is no exception. It has some lovely soundscapes and textures and I find that I always enjoy it every time I hear it, discovering something new each time. Highly recommended to all, especially those that love textured electronic music.

 Boces by MERCURY REV album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.00 | 14 ratings

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Boces
Mercury Rev Prog Related

Review by TCat
Collaborator Eclectic Team

4 stars There shouldn't be any wonder as to why Mercury Rev is a group that ventures out into strange territory at times. Two of the members are also members of "The Flaming Lips" who also has a lot of eccentric music that can pretty much go anywhere. Both Jonathan Donahue and David Fridman have had their time with both bands and their ingenuity shows in the music. "Boces" was Mercury Rev's 2nd album and continues the noisy psychedlia and experimentation that was evident in the first album "Yerself is Steam". David Baker fronted the band in both albums, however he left the band a year after "Boces" was released. However, Mercury Rev would continue to exist and move slowly to a more lush sound which also continued to be innovative.

As I mentioned, Boces continues that weird and exploratory feel that the band used in the first album, however, this time more freedom was given to the entire band to explore the tracks, which were written by all members of the band. Someone would have an idea or basis for a song and the band was allowed to improvise and experiment on top of it, until it almost sounded like a different song from how it started. Yes there is a lot of noisiness and busy-ness to the music, but it all makes sense and doesn't go over the top as far as being able to tolerate it. One little bit of trivia, that during the time of this release, the band played at Lollapalooza and were kicked off stage because they were playing too loud.

It all starts with the 10+ minute track "Meth of a Rockette's Kick". Various textures swirl around Baker's pop-ish and dreamy vocals while "bop bop bop" goes on in the background. A sudden squeal of feedback ushers in a wall of noise while Baker continues to sing like nothing changed. The mellowness returns but things seem to be teetering on the edge of sanity and that sanity keeps blowing up. The instrumental break has a noisy guitar solo, but each individual instrument stands out of this cacophony even at its most intense and feedback heavy. Just after 6 minutes, the noise breaks down and we're left with subdued horns/reed messing around before everything comes together in a ragtag New Orleans band sound, but everything still sounds like it's about ready to fall apart as instruments keep venturing off on their own tangents and background vocals keep trying to pull it all together. Another wall of noise gets built as everyone tries to outdo each other and they all get swallowed up in the swirling noise.

"Trickle Down" is an odd duck that features two vocalists singing against each other on contradicting harmonies when a heavy metal guitar riff takes over and blows everything else away while an excited bunch of background singers sing "Yeah yeah yeah". Noise comes and goes while the singing/talking continues. The song is structured, yet chaotic. So much is packed into 5 minutes.

"Bronx Cheer" utilizes processed vocals to start off, but a pop-py yet noisy riff comes right in while John and Jonathan sing in parts. It is so interesting how things have a pop feel to them yet the songs are so strange and distorted and definitely not typical. I love it!

"Boys Peel Out" has a childish vibe to it with some jazz leanings. As usual, everything sounds like its on the verge of insanity. Vocals sound na´ve yet the music going on around it sounds confident. Everything fits together, yet it doesn't. Its like you are listening to a song where everyone can't seem to get on the same page, yet you are sitting there enjoying what you hear.

"Downs are Feminine Balloons" starts out sounding like maybe we are going to get a normal song with strumming guitars and a simple melody, but a slightly off-kilter French horn makes you wonder when things will go south. There is also a nice flute in there too. It all comes together in a swirly psychedelic track, but stays quite mellow this time. After 3 minutes, someone starts to play distorted chords and intensity builds a bit, yet this time, somehow it all holds together. "If there's one thing I can't stand, its up."

"Something for Joey" has a fuller sound which intensifies early on with some unidentifiable instrumental effects. The song has pop sensibilities mixed with chaos. That's the best way to describe it. And flutes are involved.

"Snorry Mouth" is another 10 + minute track. Starting out somewhat peaceful, then becoming suddenly noisy, and then more dreaminess mixed with nightmarish textures. Dual guitars fight with each other during the instrumental breaks as everyone else tries to hold it all together. There is an ambient/noise section later as the music gets experimental and suddenly breaks into its organized chaos again. As the guitars take over again, it all approaches "Kayo Dot" style craziness, then it all falls apart into a quieter section. Now we've finally gone to the other side of sanity as a hundred different sounds individually try to get a foot hold, but nothing succeeds.

"Boats" moves into a more upbeat, melodic territory again with a heavier track with guitars swirling around in an almost shoegaze style while flutes keep things psychedelic sounding against the heavy guitars. "Continuous Drunks and Blunders" is a short track of noise. "Girlfren" is a solo piano joined by a drunk sounding vocalist.

Except for those last two short tracks, this is one of the best noise-pop albums I have ever heard. I'm not even sure if you can call it that. It is definitely hard to describe, but the best thing I can think of is walking along the line of sanity/insanity. And all the while, I find it enjoyable and intriguing. I also know there are a lot of people that feel the same way about it, but it does come off as a little harsh the first few times you hear it. Once you get used to it, you start to hear a lot of cleverness and ingenuity. I know I sort of avoided it at first having come across it after hearing the amazing album "All Is Dream" and deciding it didn't sound anything like that one. But, curiosity kept me coming back to this album until now where I find it completely fascinating. Because of the weak ending where the band feels like they are just taking up time, I can only give it 4 stars, but the other tracks are so amazing and unlike anything else, that I have to give it at least that many stars. This is highly recommended if you are looking for something different, yet challenging.

 Yerself Is Steam by MERCURY REV album cover Studio Album, 1991
3.26 | 20 ratings

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Yerself Is Steam
Mercury Rev Prog Related

Review by TCat
Collaborator Eclectic Team

4 stars The first full album by Mercury Rev does not sound anything like what most people think Mercury Rev sounds like. First of all, the lead singer is not the same. Second, the music is completely different, in that it varies from soft noise rock to a full on wall of noise and distortion. The vocals are quite paranoid sounding also, adding to the strangeness of this album. The first three albums are a lot like this in fact, in varying degrees. And even though it is so different from the later sound of the band, I still love it. The timing of the tracks listed on the outer package is incorrectly noted and this, for some reason, was done on purpose, probably to contribute to the uncertainty of everything.

This album is considered to be one of the 50 greatest Shoegaze albums of all time, but it is so different from typical shoegaze music. There is a lot more to this music than just fuzz tones, there is chaos, even in the quiet passages, there are dynamics all through the album, lots of distortion and a feeling of being locked into something you just can't get out of. But even with all that, you want to hear more of it, because it is so different from everything else. Since two of the groups founders are also from "The Flaming Lips", a lot of people compare the two bands. I have heard some of The Flaming Lips albums, but as of yet, I haven't heard anything like this from them, unless maybe it is on their earlier albums. I will have to get better familiar with them if it is anything like this.

This album proves that there is beauty in noise and in chaos. But don't think this is all just a solid mass of noise, because it isn't that either. There are plenty of passages that are quiet, but still unsettling at the same time. The vocals constantly feel like someone just on the edge of sanity, either almost there or just barely tipped over onto the other side. The music matches the vocals too, everything fits together perfectly. Of course, those familiar with the more recent music by the band, know they are usually very mellow, but still very different and still full of emotion. In this debut album, the emotion is there, but it is not typical, as nothing about this is typical. Lyrics are strange, vocals are off kilter, instrumental passages are not typical, and it all fits together amazingly well.

The album name, "Yerself is Steam" is a lyric that keeps popping up on the first track and is a misinterpretation of the phrase "Your Self-Esteem". It is a study of contrasts throughout it's seven minute runtime. Loud and chaotic, soft and dissonant. "Blue and Black" has some deep vocals and remains the same throughout, not loud but definitely not peaceful at all either. "Sweet Oddyssey..." builds until it is taken over by fast paced drums and the guitars that combine to almost give it a gothic feeling, especially towards the last part of it. "Frittering" actually starts out with acoustic guitars and treated vocals that are given a far-away sound. Even here during a quiet moment, there is that sense of unease. At the 2 minute mark, drums kick in and so do the psychedelic sounds of guitars, building a wall of sound, the vocals becoming locked into the entire mix, not standing out, but not completely buried within either. It becomes more dissonant as it continues, then suddenly the wall is dropped and it's just acoustic guitar, but then it builds back again quickly. Guitar forms a melody just barely over the background noise.

"Very Sleepy Rivers" is a 12 minute track about a serial killer that uses a river as an analogy to how his moods can change so quickly from peacefulness to a sudden tendency to "snap". It is mixed at a subdued volume, vocals are again trapped in the mix, and totally psychotic sounding. The lyrics are very creepy but mostly indiscernible and the song is very dark, building in volume and intensity. Vocals also include some howling, but deep in the mix. This goes on a little too long in my opinion, and this works against the entire album unfortunately. This track is more of a shoegaze sound than the rest of the album. On the CD edition, there is also a hidden bonus track called "Car Wash Hair" which was released as a single as a follow up to the album. This is probably the most conventional song on the album, mostly because the vocals are easy to understand and mixed more to the front of everything. There is a nice combination of conventional and unconventional going on in the instrumentals behind the vocals that keeps things very atypical, and not very "single" sounding. When the guitars build their dissonance during the instrumental break, there is nothing conventional about it at all, but some sanity returns for the last verse, but loses control by the time we get to the end.

Not a lot of people will probably like this, especially if you are expecting something like the albums "All Is Dream" or "Snowflake Midnight", but I find that I keep coming back to this and that I actually enjoy it. It took me a few listens to get it, but it stirred my curiosity enough to want to understand it, so I kept listening until I grew to appreciate it. It's not perfect though, there are places where things fade out too quickly and other places where things go on for too long, but overall, I love the feeling of uncertainty, that feeling of going back and forth over the thin line of sanity/insanity. This is very interesting music, and it has a lot of emotion and dynamics, but is just not quite good enough to be considered a masterpiece, and I almost get the feeling that was the intention. Anyway, I consider it an excellent addition to my collection, and suggest that if you like Mercury Rev already, maybe you should venture into their earlier music and see if it suits you also.

 Yerself Is Steam by MERCURY REV album cover Studio Album, 1991
3.26 | 20 ratings

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Yerself Is Steam
Mercury Rev Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The debut Mercury Rev album sounds like a grab-bag of late 1980s Flaming Lips B-sides. This makes absolute sense when you consider the close links between the two bands, but the Lips do this sort of material better and the passage of time has made this feel increasingly dated. It'll be particularly jarring if you came to Mercury Rev after hearing the smoother, gentler sound they provide on latter-day releases like The Secret Migration. That said, if you cannot get enough early Flaming Lips, it'll probably tickle your fancy and keep you reasonably entertained, even if it won't knock In a Priest-Driven Ambulance off its perch any time soon.
 Deserter's Songs by MERCURY REV album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.60 | 47 ratings

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Deserter's Songs
Mercury Rev Prog Related

Review by TCat
Collaborator Eclectic Team

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.

 The Secret Migration by MERCURY REV album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.65 | 23 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.
 All Is Dream by MERCURY REV album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.89 | 34 ratings

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All Is Dream
Mercury Rev Prog Related

Review by TCat
Collaborator Eclectic Team

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.

 Snowflake Midnight by MERCURY REV album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.88 | 11 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!
 The Secret Migration by MERCURY REV album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.65 | 23 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.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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