Mercury Rev


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
Yerself Is Steam , 9/10
Boces , 8/10
See You On The Other Side , 6.5/10
Deserter's Songs , 7.5/10
Harmony Rockets: Paralyzed Mind, 6/10
Grasshopper & The Golden Crickets: The Orbit Of Eternal Grace , 5/10
All Is Dream , 6/10
The Secret Migration (2005), 6/10
Snowflake Midnight (2008), 5/10
Links:

Mercury Rev, originating from upstate New York and featuring John Donahue on guitar and Dave Fridmann on bass, achieved a synthesis of historical proportions. Yerself Is Steam (1991) was a psychedelic extravaganza that spanned three decades and three continents. Emotionally, it ran the gamut from Red Krayola's anarchic freak-outs to contemplative/meditative ecstases in the vein of new-age music. Technically, it blended and alternated pop melody, ambient droning, mind-boggling distortion, oneiric folk, martial tempos, pastoral passages, infernal noise and lyrical lullabies. Far from being merely a nostalgic tribute to an age, Mercury Rev's operation started with the hippie vision of nirvana on the other side of a swirling and chaotic music, but tempered the optimism of that program with an awareness of the human condition, and poisoned it with fits of neurosis and decadent atmospheres. The fantasies of Boces (1993) were even more variegated and imaginative, veritable collages of sonic events. The dense and busy arrangements, that owed more and more to Fridmann's command of keyboards and orchestration, did not interfere with what was fundamentally a much gentler mood, a distant relative of Kevin Ayers' fairy-tales. The progress towards a joyful and serene sound continued on See You On The Other Side (1995), which frequently embraced poppy melodies and facile rhythms, whereas Deserter's Songs (1998) marked the zenith of their phantasmagoric orchestrations.
(Translated from the Italian by Troy Sherman)

Mercury Rev, one of the most important bands of the 1990s, was born in Buffalo, New York during the 1980s. The group did not have a fixed drummer, and instead revolved around John Donahue (guitar, and later vocals), Sean “Grasshopper” Mackiowiak (guitar, clarinet), and Dave Fridmann (bass). David Baker performed primary vocals on the earlier and more prolific recordings, and Jimy Chambers functioned as their early drummer and keyboardist. For the recording of the single Carwash Hair (Mint Films, 1991), as well as other contributions to several albums, Suzanna Thorpe was added on flute.

 

Yerself Is Steam (Beggars Banquet, 1991 - Columbia, 1992), their debut, is one of the most important records of psychedelic rock and one of the masterpieces of the '90s. On first listen, the record’s sound is chaotic and swirling, obviously signifying Mercury Rev’s cathartic function, and their aim to achieve an acid-influenced nirvana, just like the first San Franciscan hippies. But every song hides terrible neurosis, which amplifies the most electric moments of Neil Young, and gives rise to a sick and decadent atmosphere, different than that of the optimistic and carefree '60s. The schizophrenic compositions of Mercury Rev are delicate ballads that hide the soul of a serial killer. The complex music appears to be a new age version of Red Krayola; uncoordinated and unbalanced, like Red Krayola, but at the same time containing a contemplative and meditative sound, like new age music. The band’s method of hypnosis is well exemplified by the song Frittering, in which one of the guitars "sings" the spongy melody while the other is immersed in a sea of distortion. Everything goes on for eight minutes over a hypnotic cadence. Chasing a Bee runs for seven minutes and is the quintessence of '"dreampop" music: folk guitar chords are underpinned by an underworld of eccentric sounds, all accompanied by a fairytale-like lullaby singer. Slowly, the guitar riffs become more distorted and loud, while the pace becomes more and more martial. Meanwhile, the noise generated by Thorpe’s pastoral flute playing hovers calmly over the piece. The song is gradually submerged in a maelstrom of hellish noise. Blue and Black is a piece of Dadaist theater in the most solemn tradition of David Thomas: a soft-toned shamanic blather, it is as insane as it is poetic, floating on a gentle rhythmic carpet on which stands massive chords for both piano and orchestra. Percussion is often the protagonist; the harmonies are always accompanied by eccentric rhythms. Syringe Mouth is influenced by the demented saraband of Red Krayola, with a carousel of guitars and distorted vocals set to a crazy martial rhythm. In Sweet Odyssee of a Cancer Cell, exhaled over a charging beat are almost Indian psalms, and before long the song is screwed into a dizzying Sufis dance. The disc culminates with Very Sleepy Rivers, twelve minutes of slow clouds of chords and ethereal singing, which is broken by an inhumane fear. The theatrical aspect of the album can be attributed to David Thomas’s influence on the band, but the spatial sense is derivative of Pink Floyd.

 

The following album-less single, If You Want Me to Stay (Rough Trade, 1992), seems to mitigate the madness of the ensemble portrayed on the previous record. The next record, Boces (Columbia, 1993), however, ran with the brilliant anarchy of the previous album, but this time with excessive self-indulgence. Meth of a Rockette's Kick unwinds for ten minutes on a carpet of pretty, anxious, and harmonic adventures. It is a succession of surreal solfeggio, dissonances, arpeggios and rings, with an ethereal flute solo from Thorpe and sudden bursts of distorted guitar. On the surface the track is a fairy’s floating lullaby; a carousel for children that takes the form of a pastoral, Mediterranean arrangement a ’la Kevin Ayers, and rears a melody that owes something to the Flaming Lips. The meat of the song is gradually shown, though, and in the end it is revealed to be a long jam of jazz horns, children's choirs, and exotic percussion (a composition that leads one to make connections to Kevin Ayers’ Colores Para Dolores). Developed in their own pseudo-orchestral fashion, Mercury Rev created two more entertaining songs: Trickle Down and Hi-Speed ​​Boats. Both are set at a strong pace and placed in a sonic cloud of distortion, and both are held back by litanies reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr.. As proven on this and the previous record (and through a look at the turbulent personal history of the band), the group is enhanced when deformed; when guitars, percussion, and wind instruments are free to ramble and create cacophony, the band is at its prime. The long raga Snorry Mouth, however, has a thread to more serene music, which holds together the centrifugal forces of chaos, and ends up limping behind the melody. Unlike classic psychedelia (Pink Floyd), which was anchored to the form of the song, Mercury Rev creates music with a free flow of sound and without a predefined order, such as the changing and unpredictable course of a stream. In this sense, their compositions are more closely related than one would originally think to the free-form works of Robert Wyatt and even the most baroque jazz-rock. This is clearly shown by the liquid jamming of the songs Boys Peel Out and the enthralling improvisation Something for Joey. The incoherent, messy opera that is Boces closes with the blues ballad Girlfren, which lies somewhere between the "acidfolk" of the Holy Modal Rounders and the most brilliantly inebriated of Tom Waits. Mercury Rev’s true specialties, though, were their cacophonous delusions that prove them as masters of musical transformation.

 

Following Boces, Baker left the band (to form the Shady) and Donahue became the unique lead singer. Adam Snyder was added on electric keyboards (mellotron, synthesizer, electric piano), which added a third layer of ivory to the two played by Chambers (clavinet, harpsichord) and Fridmann (piano and mellotron).

 

See You On the Other Side (Columbia, 1995), their next record, tries to sound a bit more ‘pop.’ A mostly serene and joyful, yet compact and focused, air limits the disc to swirling and spatial rides. Empire State, a fairy tale nursery rhyme to the beat of a march, degenerates into percussive chaos scarred by a free-jazz saxophone. A mutant hard-rock riff (a little bit of exuberance from the realm of the stratospheric Gong) can be found in Young Man's Stride. Although the record starts off strong, after the second song it is all downhill. The record becomes a prisoner of more and more brazenly ‘pop’ songs, even if it is redeemed continuously with touches of genius: the romantic solo clarinet in the maudlin country dirge Sudden Ray Of Hope; Racing the Tide features counterpoint pastoral flute and French Horn, which has a slightly pathetic affect; Close Encounters Of The 3rd Grade is suddenly launched into a frantic disco "groove,” while a soprano sings with the choir, which is an off-key chorus of synthesizers. Everlasting Arm parodies the ornate orchestra of Tin Pan Alley (Somewhere over the Rainbow in particular). A Kiss from an Old Flame utilizes a deadly tango, and Peaceful Night is a Salvation Army blues piece, filled with gospel organs and a sad bombardment of horns. At this point in the bands career, the general sonic background of their music has become more tenuous, although more and more refined, more and more calculated, and especially more and more orchestral. Donahue’s vocal register is perhaps too tempting, and the melodies are too sweetened, giving the impression that this is their Dark Side of the Moon; when the ingenious psychedelic music leads to the loss of the psychedelic touch, what remains is only a baroque pop mediocrity.

 

 

The single Everlasting Arm contains Deadman, a collage of 34 minutes.

 

Paralyzed Mind of the Archangel Void (Big Cat, 1995) was recorded under the pseudonym “Harmony Rockets” and only contains a suite, forty minutes in length. The EP I've Got a Golden Ticket (No 6, 1998) contains bizarre covers of Vangelis songs and of film themes.

 

Deserter's Songs (V2, 1998), which in the process of its creation added violin, contrabass, horn, and trombone, is rather schizophrenic: on the one hand, the record’s atmosphere is just as hallucinatory as the previous records, but on the other, the production is usually reserved to a light music orchestra. The music, then, is the equivalent to a treatise on post-modernism: the sound is not that of a score, but instead a repetition of continuous musical quotes of others, in particular those of suburban Broadway and vaudeville. Sadly, where the previous album seemed to be a vain affectation of their original sound, the orchestration, at this point, was seemingly becoming the norm. Holes is the first song on the album, and the sounds that begin it are those of a classical string section and a pastoral flute. The song is decadent, scanning, and martial, like the Flaming Lips, but marries that aesthetic with a clear envy of the languid symphonic orchestrations of later Pink Floyd. Tonite It Shows takes a theme and arrangements from nostalgic ‘50s soundtracks (oboe, violin, harp, xylophone) as only Van Dyke Parks could do. Their method on this album is a deconstruction and reconstruction of clichés and masterpieces. To the yearning in the string section (and this time in the women's choir as well), Endlessly adds the yelps of an atmospheric Theremin. The short song Hudson Line is a hodgepodge of unrelated ideas, from the poignant saxophone solo (played by Garth Hudson of the Band) to the searing electric guitar, to the warbling of an alto chorus, to the minimalism of the string section, to the passing phrases for organ, trombone, xylophone, etc., this relatively short work is obviously jumbled. This album proves that the commercial orchestration was becoming a method of creating music for Mercury Rev. As in the case of Pink Floyd, the band began with brilliant psychedelia, which deteriorated in later albums into far-fetched instrumental scores with a polished sound until, ultimately, the extraterrestrial compositions of the beginning gave way to a pop-fashioned, melodic sound. There are glimmers of hope for genius, though, like the jazz-rock exuberance of Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp; however, the song is more "marketable" than any of their prior brilliant moments. The postmodernist practice leads them to more and more literal interpretations of past music. The violins of Opus 40 are strongly reminiscent of Penny Lane (The Beatles), and the vocal harmonies as well as the gospel organ solo come from the Band (the melody resembles that of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, and perhaps the organ solo is in homage the drummer and guest of honor, Levon Helm). It is curious that, in the end, the disk triumphs. Among the lows, there are high moments, like the ballad Goddess on a Hiway, which is strangely reminiscent of Neil Young despite containing a baroque harpsichord. It was as if under the immediate Baroque trappings of the record there was the rediscovery of the American tradition. The arrangements within the record are a riot of electronic keyboards, which are entrusted with the melody, rhythm, and polyphony. The timbres are colorful, and the dynamic is swirling. This record, in conclusion, is a little Pet Sounds (Beach Boys) by Donahue, who put order into chaos and tried to save what little rationality there was left in the early records.

 

Sean "Grasshopper" Mackiowiak, in the meantime, released his first solo album, The Orbit of Eternal Grace (Beggars Banquet, 1998), which holds Silver Balloons, perhaps the catchiest of his career.

I Mercury Rev, una delle formazioni piu` importante degli anni'90, nacquero a Buffalo (New York) durante gli anni '80. Il gruppo, privo di un batterista fisso, faceva perno su John Donahue alla chitarra, Sean "Grasshopper" Mackiowiak all'altra chitarra, David Baker al canto e Dave Fridmann al basso. Per la registrazione del singolo Carwash Hair (Mint Films, 1991) si aggiunsero Suzanne Thorpe al flauto e Jimy Chambers alle tastiere e alla batteria.

Yerself Is Steam (Beggars Banquet, 1991 - Columbia, 1992) e` uno dei dischi piu` importanti del rock psichedelico e uno dei capolavori degli anni '90. La prima impressione e` che il sound caotico e vorticoso dei Mercury Rev abbia una funzione catartica, miri al raggiungimento di un nirvana acido come quello dei primi hippie di San Francisco. Ma ogni brano nasconde nevrosi terribili, che amplificano quelle del Neil Young piu` elettrico, e che danno origine ad atmosfere malate e decadenti, invece di quelle ottimiste e spensierate degli anni '60. Le schizofreniche composizioni dei Mercury Rev sono ballate delicate che nascondono un animo da serial killer. Il complesso sembra una versione new age dei Red Krayola, tanto scoordinato e squilibrato quanto i Red Krayola ma al tempo stesso facile vittima di un suono contemplativo e meditativo come la musica new age.
Il metodo delle loro ipnosi e` ben esemplificato da Frittering, in cui una delle chitarre "canta" la sofficissima melodia, mentre l'altra l'immerge in una marea di distorsioni, e il tutto procede per otto minuti sopra una cadenza ipnotica.
Chasing A Bee si snoda per sette minuti ed e` la quintessenza dell'"onirico" in musica: gli accordi folk della chitarra, puntellati da un sottobosco di rumori eccentrici, accompagnano la ninnananna fiabesca del cantante. Piano piano i riff della chitarra si fanno piu` distorti e assordanti, mentre il passo si fa sempre piu` marziale e sul frastuno si libra con calma davvero olimpica il flauto pastorale di Thorpe. Il canto viene progressivamente sommerso in un maelstrom di rumori infernali.
Blue And Black e` un pezzo di teatro dadaista nella piu` solenne tradizione di David Thomas: un sommesso blaterare dai toni sciamanici, tanto folle quanto poetico, su un lieve tappeto ritmico da cui si stagliano accordi solenni di pianoforte e di orchestra.
Le percussioni sono spesso protagoniste delle armonie con i loro ritmi eccentrici. Alle gloriose sarabande dei Red Krayola rimanda Smooth Syringe, giostra di chitarre e voci distorte a folle passo marziale. Sweet Odyssee Of A Cancer Cell esala salmi indiani a passo di carica e si avvita in una vertiginosa danza sufi.
Il disco culmina in Very Sleepy Rivers, dodici minuti di lente nuvole di accordi e di canto fratturato da una paura disumana. Il "teatro" di David Thomas, ma anche le suspense spaziali dei Pink Floyd.

Il singolo If You Want Me To Stay (Rough Trade, 1992) sembra attenuare la follia dell'ensemble, ma invece Boces (Columbia, 1993) riprende la geniale anarchia dell'album precedente, semmai con eccessiva auto-indulgenza.
Meth Of A Rockette's Kick si sdipana per dieci minuti su un tappeto di graziose e trepide peripezie armoniche, un avvicendarsi surreale di solfeggi, dissonanze, arpeggi e tintinnii, con un etereo assolo al flauto di Thorpe e improvvisi scoppi di distorsioni chitarristiche. In superfiecie fluttua una cantilena fiabesca, un girotondo per bambini che prende forma in un motivo pastorale-mediterraneo alla Kevin Ayers e s'inalbera in una melodia alla Flaming Lips. La cartilagine del brano si spappola progressivamente, e alla fine rimane soltanto una lunga jam di fiati jazz, cori di bambini e percussioni esotiche (e il ritmo "ferroviario" che la conduce fa pensare sempre piu` al Kevin Ayers di Colores Para Dolores).
Messo a punto in questa maniera il loro stile pseudo-orchestrale, i Mercury Rev si concedono un paio di svaghi, Trickle Down e Hi-Speed Boats, entrambi a ritmo incalzante da sabba e in un nugolo di distorsioni, ed entrambi frenati da litanie languide alla Dinosaur Jr.
Il gruppo si esalta quando deforma, quando chitarre, percussioni e fiati sono liberi di imbastire le discussioni piu` sconclusionate. Il lungo raga di Snorry Mouth, invece, ha un filo conduttore che tiene insieme le forze centrifughe del caos, e finisce per zoppicare dietro alla propria melodia.
A differenza della psichedelia classica (Pink Floyd), che era pur sempre ancorata alla forma canzone, nei Mercury Rev conta soprattutto il flusso di suoni liberi che si accavallano senza un ordine predefinito, come il corso mutevole e imprevedibile di un torrente. In tal senso sono imparentati anche con le opere free-form di Robert Wyatt e persino con il jazz-rock piu` barocco, come dimostrano il liquido jamming di Boys Peel Out e la trascinante improvvisazione di Something For Joey. In maniera del tutto incoerente, chiude l'opera la ballata blues Girlfren, fra l'"acidfolk" degli Holy Modal Rounders e il Tom Waits piu` ubriaco. La loro specialita` rimangono le "code", veri e propri deliri cacofonici in cui si sublima la loro arte di trasformisti.

Baker lascia il complesso (per formare gli Shady) e Donahue diventa il cantante unico. Adam Snyder si aggiunge alle tastiere elettroniche (mellotron, sintetizzatore, piano elettrico), a triplicare quelle suonate da Chambers (clavinet, clavicembalo) e Fridmann (pianoforte e mellotron).

See You On The Other Side (Columbia, 1995) sterza verso un sound un po' piu' pop, in modo da mietere qualche alloro anche nel mondo dei Mazzy Star.
Piu` sereno e gioioso, compatto e focalizzato, questo disco limita le giostre vorticose e spaziali al finale di Empire State, una filastrocca fiabesca a passo di marcetta che degenera in un caos percussivo sfregiato da un sassofono free-jazz, e al riff mutante di hard-rock (un po' dell'esuberanza stratosferica dei Gong) di Young Man's Stride.
Da li` in poi il disco e` tutto in discesa, prigioniero delle maglie di umori pop sempre piu` sfacciati, anche se redento continuamente da spunti geniali: l'assolo romantico di clarinetto nella sdolcinata nenia country di Sudden Ray Of Hope; il contrappunto pastorale del flauto e l'assolo ancor piu` patetico di corno francese in quella di Racing The Tide; Close Encounters Of The 3rd Grade si lancia improvvisamente in una sfrenata "groove" da discoteca, mentre una soprano gospel gorgheggia con il coro stonato dei sintetizzatori.
Everlasting Arm fa persino la parodia della musica leggera orchestrale di Tin Pan Alley (Somewhere Over The Rainbow in particolare). A Kiss From An Old Flame ingaggia un tango mortale, e Peaceful Night intona un blues da Salvation Army con organo gospel e mesta fanfara di fiati.
Il baccano di sottofondo si fa sempre piu` tenue, benche' sempre piu` raffinato, sempre piu` calcolato, e soprattutto sempre piu` orchestrale. Il registro di Donahue e` forse troppo suadente, e le melodie sono fin troppo edulcorate, dando l'impressione che questo sia il loro Dark Side Of The Moon, quando il virtuosismo psichedelico porta alla perdita del tocco psichedelico. E rimane soltanto un barocco del pop.

Il singolo di Everlasting Arm contiene Deadman, un collage di 34 minuti.

Paralyzed Mind of The Archangel Void (Big Cat, 1995) viene registrato sotto lo pseudonimo di Harmony Rockets e contiene soltanto una suite di quaranta minuti. The EP I've Got A Golden Ticket (No 6, 1998) contains bizarre covers of Vangelis and film themes.

Deserter's Songs (V2, 1998), con la formazione aumentata da violino, corno, trombone e contrabbasso, e` invece disco schizofrenico: da un lato la sua atmosfera e` ancor piu` allucinata, dall'altro la produzione e` quella solitamente riservata a un'orchestrina di musica leggera. Le musiche, infine, sono l'equivalente di un trattato sul post-modernismo: non partiture, ma continue citazioni di musiche altrui, in particolare quelle dei musical di Broadway e dei vaudeville di periferia.
Quello che sul disco precedente era sembrato un vezzo vanitoso, diventa la norma. I suoni che aprono Holes sono quelli di una sezione d'archi classicheggiante e di un flauto pastorale. Il canto decadente e la scansione marziale dei Flaming Lips si sposano cosi` a un decor sinfonico che fa invidia alle orchestrazioni languide dei tardi Pink Floyd. Tonite It Shows ruba il tema e l'arrangiamento alle piu` nostalgiche colonne sonore degli anni '50 (oboe, violini, arpa, xilofono) come un tempo soltanto Van Dyke Parks sapeva fare. Nel suo genere di decostruzione e ricostruzione di cliche`, e` un capolavoro. Alla stessa nostalgia di colonne sonore nella sezione d 'archi (e questa volta anche nel coro femminile), Endlessly aggiunge i guaiti atmosferici del theremin. La breve Hudson Line e` un'accozzaglia di spunti scorrelati, dall'assolo struggente di sassofono (suonato da Garth Hudson della Band) a quello bruciante di chitarra elettrica, dai gorgheggi di un coro di contralto ai minimalismi della sezione d'archi, passando per frasi d'organo, trombone, xilofono, etc.
Il metodo diventa maniera. Come nel caso dei tardi Pink Floyd, la psichedelia e` soltanto un pretesto per lambiccate partiture strumentali, per un sound levigato fino all'autoparodia, e, alla fin fine, per un melodismo pop all'antica.
Ma la maniera puo` anche sfuggire di mano, come capita nel jazz-rock esuberante di Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp, peraltro il brano piu` "vendibile".
La prassi postmodernista li porta a citazioni sempre piu` letterali. La cadenza di violini su Opus 40 e` quella di Penny Lane (dei Beatles), le armonie vocali sono quelle della Band (la melodia assomiglia a quella di The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down) cosi` come l'assolo di organo gospel (cosi` come il batterista e ospite d'onore, Levon Helm).
Ma e` curioso che alla fine il disco trionfi con la ballata Goddess On A Hiway, che ha il passo di Neil Young nonostante un clavicembalo barocco. Come se dietro la porta ci fosse la riscoperta della tradizione Americana e l'abbandono di tutti gli orpelli barocchi.
Gli arrangiamenti sono un tripudio di tastiere elettroniche, a cui vengono demandati melodia, ritmo e polifonia. I timbri sono coloratissimi, e la dinamica e` vorticosa. Questo e` un po' il Pet Sounds (Beach Boys) di Donahue, che ha messo ordine nella baraonda e tenta di salvare quel poco di razionale che c'era nei primi dischi.

Sean "Grasshopper" Mackiowiak ha intanto pubblicato il suo primo album solista: The Orbit Of Eternal Grace (Beggars Banquet, 1998), la cui Silver Balloons e` forse il pezzo piu` orecchiabile della sua carriera.

The good news about All Is Dream (V2, 2001) is that it is the most self-referential work of their career: instead of turning the tradition upside down, Mercury Rev turn their own past music upside down. Unfortunately, the good news comes with some seriously bad news. Gone is the anarchic, chaotic, savage sound of the beginnings. What we witness today is three mildly detached musicians disfiguring their own legacy by using kitsch and easy-listening arrangements that hark back to Jack Nitzsche's or Phil Spector's 1960s pop records. For the first time a Mercury Rev album features a couple of embarrassing songs, as if the band couldn't come up with two more to finish the album and thus dusted off whatever they could find in the drawer.
Take away the layers of instruments and half of the album is made up of soft country-ish Neil Young-ian litanies. Notable examples include Tides Of The Moon, despite the soul-jazz embellishment and the psychedelic guitar solo, Dark Is Rising, despite the orchestral swells, Little Rhymes, despite the noir atmosphere, and the closing Hercules, despite the synth drone and the folkish strumming.
The more lively songs sound like pale imitations of Syd Barrett's eccentric folk-rock: Nite And Fog, the languid piano ballad Spiders And Flies, and especially the lunatic A Drop In Time, halfway between orchestral muzak and vaudeville.
One song, Lincoln's Eyes, relies on an uneasy balance between old and new styles. The whining falsetto is hardly endearing, and the folkish melody is hardly original, and the instrumental tumult is too linear to be truly dramatic, but the coda is quite ghostly.
Sure, the album showcases the band's talent and skills at manipulating sonic icons. This is not all too different from what happened to the Grateful Dead in their later years: living-room psychedelic music for aging hippies based on great playing and some cool ideas.
The problem is that the band is now doing for real, in earnest, what they originally merely pretended to do: heavily-arranged pop music.
However, even the worst Mercury Rev album is still one of the best albums of the year, but it remains their worst and does not bode well for the future. This album presented the vision of Mercury Rev in their old age playing pop-soul ballads or Bowie-esque glam-rock.

The Secret Migration (V2, 2005) is sheer calligraphy. The band continues to "normalize" the music, smoothing out the corners, erasing the discontinuities, reorganizing the chaos. No more no less than what Pink Floyd did with Dark Side Of The Moon and subsequent albums. Just like with Pink Floyd, the result is classy easy-listening music for the generation that missed the real action (Black Forest, Diamonds, Climbing Rose).

La buona notizia a proposito di All Is Dream (V2, 2001) e` che e` il lavoro piu` auto-referenziale della loro carriera: invece di capovolgere le coordinate della tradizione, i Mercury Rev capovolgono quelle del proprio passato. Peccato, pero`, che questa buona notizia si porti dietro diverse cattive notizie. Addio al sound selvaggio, anarchico e caotico dei primi tempi: cio` a cui assistiamo oggi e` lo spettacolo di tre musicisti distaccati che deturpano la loro eredita` morale usando arrangiamenti kitsch e easy-listening arrangements that che si rifanno ai dischi pop di produttori come Jack Nitzsche e Phil Spector. Per la prima volta, un album dei Mercury Rev contiene un paio di canzoni davvero imbarazzanti, come se il gruppo non fosse riuscito a terminare l'album e avesse grattato il fondo del barile (o del cassetto). Se uno toglie gli strati di strumenti, meta` dell'album e` semplicemente il Neil Young country e soffice (Tides Of The Moon, Dark Is Rising). Altre canzoni sono imitazioni pallide di Syd Barrett (Spiders And Flies, Nite And Fog). Una canzone, la spettrale Lincoln's Eyes, trova forse l'equilibrio giusto fra vecchio e nuovo stile. Non c'e` dubbio che Hercules metta in mostra l'abilita` del gruppo nel manipolare icone sonore; ma cio` non e` troppo diverso da cio` che successe ai tardi Grateful Dead: eccellenti esibizioni, idee brillanti, ma poco di cui giubilare, musica psichedelica da solotto per hippies in pensione. Il peggiore Mercury Rev di sempre e` sempre meglio di tanti altri album usciti nello stesso mese, ma rimane il peggiore, e non promette bene per il futuro.
Forse e` ora che si sciolgano prima che comincino a cantare ballate pop-soul o glam-rock alla Bowie.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Luca Cantoreggi)

The Secret Migration (V2, 2005) è pura calligrafia. La band continua a "normalizzare" la musica, smussando gli angoli, eliminando le discontinuità, riorganizzando il caos. Né più né meno come fecero i Pink Floyd con Dark Side Of The Moon e gli album successivi. Proprio come con i Pink Floyd, il risultato è musica easy-listening di buon gusto per la generazione che si è persa il meglio (Black Forest, Diamonds, Climbing Rose).

The double-CD The Essential Stillness Breathes (2006) is a selection of their most popular songs and a CD of rarities.

Hello Blackbird (2006) contains the music for a film soundtrack.

With bassist Dave Fridmann having become one of the most creative producers of the 2000s, Mercury Rev sounded more artificial than ever on Snowflake Midnight (Yep Roc, 2008). The album had nothing that even remotely matched the glorious mess of their early albums. The mainstream press that had missed them in the 1990s hailed it as a masterpiece, a fact that signified more about the influence that their sound had on the music world than the real merits of this late, lame and lackluster work. Only a virtually total ignorance of the contemporary music scene could explain why anyone would find anything relevant in these modest, old-fashioned songs.

Strange Attractor (2008) was an instrumental album distributed for free to anyone who bought Snowflake Midnight.

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