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Seeking music recommendations from a friend, I was guided towards the wonderful world of Mercury Rev. There was one warning in advance: the singer.
Yes, I was told "you'll love the music, but you'll have to get over the voice first". So, holding back my doubts, I took the plump, went to my nearest record store, and found "All is Dream".
As soon as I turned on the CD, I realised that my friend was right. The music is otherworldly, ethereal, and dreamy, but the singers voice has to be gotten over first. If you manage this, you will fall in love.
Not only that, but the album "All is Dream" is probably the best Mercury Rev album to start with. It contains some of their most accessible songs, and some of their best. Lyrics are powerful and imaginative, melodies are catchy but don't wear out too quickly - and even that infamous voice that I was warned about can be charming in it's own kooky way.
You'll soon feel as if you're being taken on a moonlit stroll through a land where the most beautiful aspects are illuminated, and all around the magical music of Mercury Rev is resonating. It's that special. "Nite and Fog" is especially great. Just give it time. This is a grower. Some will be infatuated upon first listen - others will take some time. One thing is for sure though, this is quality music, and even those who are not normally into it will at least come away thinking that Mercury Rev are something different, something unique, in a landscape of otherwise bland indie bands.
I have followed the career of the Rev since being blown away by `Yerself Is Steam', and each album has been a real step into a unique world. Until Now. All these layers of glorious textures, woodwinds, Mellotrons mentionned in every review I've read are barely evident ! It's like they've reviewed the album they wanted to hear, rather than the wounded beast that limps out of my speakers. All I hear in the foreground are the wholly inappropriate `live room' drums, and the pitiful, inadequate voice of Jonathan Donahue. The charm of Mercury Rev was to bury this fragility in a colourfully orchestrated widescreen panorama, but this album sounds exposed, transparent and anaemic. This smacks of a newly major-league act that all of a sudden has to shift units but doesn't know how to go about it. A truly pointless piece of product by the band you thought least likely to blow it.`Deserters Songs' was a magical labour of love, this is merely labourious.
Although there has been a somewhat mixed reception to this album, there seem to be two things that everyone is agreed upon. The first is that it isn't the masterpiece that 'Deserters Songs' was, and the second that it is somehow a 'dark' album. The former I would agree with, there being none of the indefineable (yet recognisable) timeless qualities that a true masterpiece must have. But dark ? Well, if this album is dark, then it is dark only in the way that a glittery starry night is, or the pools of a lover's eyes. No, to my ears at least, this is one of the most uplifting albums in years. It begans with 'The Dark is Rising', and a sweeping orchestra that could be from 'Gone With the Wind'. Its overblown, its melodramatic, and it really shouldn't be allowed - but I love it. The orchestra fades like parting mist to reveal singer Jonathon Donahue, alone and with a voice as frail as dew-spun cobwebs. "I dreamed of you on my farm, I dreamed of you in my arms, But dreams are always wrong" It contrasts so beautifully to the crashing intro that it sends shivers down your spine. But then that orchestra blows in again, and the windswept romance continues, and by now I'm convinced he is singing specifically about my own love, only the details are all topsy turvy and mixed up like in a dream. "I have my suspicions That when the stars are in position All will be revealed" 'Tides of the Moon' is next, and very delicious it is too. There's a heavy, shiny drumbeat running throughout, and Donahue's extraordinary studio-melted vocals slide through its spaces like a caramel will-o-the-wisp. This is a very heavily produced album, leading some to brand it 'over-produced', but the production here in no way diminishes the soul of the music. Rather, the tinkering has elevated the sound to the realms of the otherworldly, as the next tra
ck confirms. 'Chains', with its crashing drums, sci-fi keyboards, edgy strings and euphoric vocals, conjures up images of the band having a jammin' session with the Pixies and the Cardiacs. Which means of course that its wonderful. The tune flies all over the place, but always bounces back, like a yo-yo, tinkling against the kitchen sink as it passes. 'Lincolns Eyes'. Not, as many would have you believe, the album's duff track: "What explodes like a fractal Pops like a lite bulb Strolls in like Joel Gray At four in th' morning Armed with a big nose Fragile as a sea horse Lives in your soul An' loves you like I do" And then comes the guitar. It sweeps you up on a sustained crescendo, so high you're sure you can fly, carrying you over the rooftops to the spooky e-bow, used with such restraint on 'Deserters Songs', but played in-your-face here, dangling like a ghost from a William Castle movie in front of a tuneless backdrop of keyboards. Quite, quite brilliant. 'Nite and Fog' is the sing-along track, and its as good as 'Goddess on a Highway'. A nice and simple verse-chorus structure bobs along on a bubbly bass, and could there ever be a better chorus than this ? : "Vampires want darkness Monsters want souls Spiders want corners But you want it all !" 'Little Rhymes' is a glorious little thing, with a thumping bass propping up golden, glistening keyboards. There's something defiantly peculiar and uniquely uplifting about this song. Sometimes it sounds like it will play forever, and sometimes I wish it would. 'A Drop in Time' is a Christmas song. If it was sung by Doris Day I'd probably run a mile, but in the hands of Mercury Rev, who are "stuck inside of Leonard Cohen's mind" (hey, its a better place to be than John Malcovich's, I'm s
ure), its jingly-jangly sentimentality becomes irresistable and insanely joyous. The band make sure we don't get too carried away though, ending it with perhaps the album's one truly dark moment, the sound of a little girl crying, very possibly locked in Santa's cupboard. Well, the last three tracks ('You're My Queen', 'Spiders and Flies' and 'Hercules') are all rather dreary and half-baked in comparison, possessing little of the previous magic. But frankly I don't care - I would have been happy if they'd given us just the first track. Besides, think how boring they'd be if they were perfect all the time. No, this isn't quite the masterpiece that 'Deserters Songs' was. But you know, I think I prefer it, and I'll be gazing, beguiled, into this glittering little jewel for a long while to come. "I dreamed that I was walking And th' two of us were talking Of all life's mystery Th' words that flow between friends Winding streams without end I wanted you to see" And I want you to hear... ....www.mercuryrev.com
The quest to find this years musical soul mate is over because 'All Is Dream' is likely to blow the socks off all listeners. Drenched in orchestral manoeuvres it leaves the base camp created by 'Deserter Songs', hauls itself up to the summit and then pears majestically down on the world. Mercury Rev were always a little bit different. A few years ago they were willing to take 'I've Got A Golden Ticket' and turn it into something completely new. On 'All Is Dream' they have built on their 1999 vision to create a spectral opus that is utterly unique in the repackaged pop culture of 2001. The gulf of class that exists between Mercury Rev and their contemporaries is evidenced straight away on the album's opener 'The Dark Is Rising'. Powerful orchestration, ambitious lyrics and a female soprano near fade out gel to create the greatest love song written so far this century. It's hard not be moved, this is a song that will be cherished for centuries to come. 'Nite And Fog' could be 'Delta Neck Stomp?' more restrained brother. With a punishing beat that draws the best from a gallery of instruments, Jonathon Donahue masterfully rides the crest in that unique unassuming way of his. Mercury Rev are a band with an acute sense of purpose as well as a sparkle in their collective eyes. These dynamic characteristics see them consistently outdoing their own high standards. While 'Deserter Songs' may have a more cohesive feel to it, 'All Is Dream' has the better tunes. 'Little Rhymes' is one of them. Starting out with a surreal edge it quickly gathers pace to become a truly uplifting experience. There is a unique ambiance that is hard to quantify but the assorted sounds simply lather Jonathon's voice. The guitar playing has a spaghetti western ring about it and the eerie backdrop adds to the unforgettable mystique. After this joyous high the com
edown is even better. 'A Drop In Time' is probably Mercury Rev's most immediate song of recent years. It contains their innate ability to recreate a seasonal spirit. The viola's are plucked with wondrous glee, the gallery of angels loom in the distance and a sweet harvest of strings round off the jamboree. You won't always be assured of snowfalls when it's played and in any case 'A Drop In Time' has such a warm glow it would probably melt it. 'You're My Queen' is rather more basic but is still magical. You can hear a tiny Bowie influence ('Heroes') as it skirts by in super quick time. The chugging chords provide the impetus for Donahue's words that are delivered in an uncharacteristic energised way. The whole effect recalls earlier directions and diminishes the risk of orchestral overload. Jonathan Donahue's vocals have become more shrill with age. You can see how people could be put off by them but it's hard to deny their wholesome gravitas. Only once do they really become taxing, on the slightly pathetic 'Lincoln's Eyes' that has its roots in forgettable daytime nursery rhymes a la 'Whose Afraid Of The Drunken Sailor'. 'Tides Of The Moon' has a great deal more purpose and a searing intensity that is hard to resist. It's business as usual on 'Spiders And Flies'. A lazy piano is omnipresent as well as some mellotron flute intermissions. The singing sounds a little wasted and perhaps the whole effect is a little shallow. The same accusation can't be directed at 'Hercules' which has all the hallmarks of greatness lurking in its loins. Spanning over 8 minutes it's all you could wish for to close the album. As it whisks about acoustically the beaming Hammond suggests there is more adventures lying dormant in reserve. The lyrics have an old world ring and are suitably expressive. As the scratchy guitars blow the top off the
gentle atmosphere Mercury Rev begin the long descent back home. The victory march is spectacular and awe inspiring. As one of the years best albums draws it's last breath you realise that fantasy is now not only the domain of the film and print industries. Like all seminal albums 'All Is Dream' doesn't reveal itself straight away. You could even be mildly disappointed at first. Sooner or later though the genius does shine through. There is such a grand splendour to this offering that it will surely become a lasting classic. It is hard to see how Mercury Rev can spur themselves to even greater feats but their legend is now surely cast. They have proved once again that they are the best exponents of dream pop on the planet today
It's difficult to describe Mercury Rev's excellent new release without using the following words; 'shimmering', 'ethereal' and 'god-like'. Since these words have been effectively been used to death describing My Bloody Valentine and The Cocteau Twins over the years I'll steer well clear. Following up the superb 'Deserter's Songs' was never going to be easy, but if anything 'All is Dream' tops it. Ably assisted by production genius Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips), the Rev have created a swirling musical journey. It's refreshing to hear the melange of guitars, effects and mellotrons sound intimate and comforting rather than overblown and bombastic. All the tracks are great, but 'The Dark is Rising' recalls Harvest-era Neil Young and John Lennon at his best. 'Nite and Fog' has a great chorus and is the next single. Special mention must go to 'A Drop in Time' however as it feels timeless yet contemporary. Tony Visconti even does the strings arrangements that remind you of all of the great Bowie albums recorded in Berlin. More importantly it's a fitting tribute to the original producer Jack Nitzsche (Neil Young, The Rolling Stones, Motown) who sadly died just days before recording. This CD is like that first love, fine wine and evokes that bitter-sweet melancholy you feel when you say goodbye to your lover at the airport. Just buy it. It'll brighten your day. Thanks indieboy.
A couple of years ago things didn’t look good for Mercury Rev, the money, the energy and the rather large number of drugs imbibed during the recording procedure seemed to have run out. The poor critical and commercial reception to their third album, ‘See You on the Other Side’ had left the group little more then a shell. A small group of musicians centred around leaders Jonathan Donahue and guitarist Grasshopper, roughly affiliated to The Flaming Lips the band as an individual entity were largely no more. Perhaps seeking some much needed ‘indie’ credibility, the band was sort out by Richard Branson’s nascent label V2, and given a recording contract as sort of elder statesmen besides the labels youthful line-up. A tortuous two year recording ensued but no one, possible even the band themselves expected the result, 1998s ‘Deserters Songs’ to enjoy the critical acclaim or sales it received. In short no one expected it to be that good. The quiet introspection of the band’s current sound is light years away from their beginnings as avant gard, noise makers of the extreme persuasion. Formed at Buffalo university at the tail end of 80s, the band’s debut ‘Yerself is Steam’ was released in 1991, the product of three years work and studio time donated by The Flaming Lips, with whom Donahue also played. An orgy of maverick noise and strangely bewitching melody the album became a small scale alternative success. Then a six piece led by gigantic vocalist David Baker, with bassist/producer Dave Fridmann, drummer Jimy Chambers and flautist Suzanne Thorpe alongside the current creative crux of Donahue and Grasshopper, the band reacted in the only way possible naturally. They went completely and utterly insane. The band glorified in drink and drug abuse and above all noise. They were notably thrown off stage and off the Lollapooza tour in 1993 for “excessive volume” during a perfo
rmance. Meanwhile vocalist Baker, was going completely off the rails into alcoholism and worrying violence, often punching out assorted members of the group during gigs. Unsurprisingly, this atmosphere of excess did not do wonders for the creative process. The album recorded during this period, ‘Boces’ has been intriguingly described as “The Most enchanting of Walt Disney’s film scores played through a vacuum cleaner.” This doesn’t even begin to come close to the spirit of this unhinged record, but it’s a fair start. Needless to say if you were tempted to check out the band’s back catalogue by ‘Deserters Songs’ you may find yourself running away, screaming, loudly! Certainly the album should come with a large warning sticking advising “approach with caution”. The fall out of ‘Boces’ inevitably was immense as the band showed no willingness to slow down their pursuit of oblivion. The craziness which accompanied the ‘Boces’ tour led Fridmann to retire from live performances and kick start his production career. Meanwhile more significantly, in early 1994 Baker finally left the band (cue questioning of jumping or pushing) attempting to start a solo career under the name of Shady but quickly disappearing from view. The group reacted to this by promoting Donahue to lead vocalist (whose cracked, half whispered falsetto could hardly have sounded more different to Baker) and embarked on the more symphonic driven direction which resulted in their third album ‘See You on the Other Side’. They now sounded like a completely different band and whilst the seeds of the ‘Deserters Songs’ are present; windswept, string soaked melody, genius had yet to gestate. The album was a spectacular flop and Chambers and Thorpe soon followed Baker out of the revolving door and Donahue was left staring into the abyss and the bottom of a whiskey bott
le. Mercury Rev were in need of a miracle and well this is where we came in isn’t it? ‘Deserters Songs’ was that miracle, a string kissed, slow paced trip through a twisted and haunted Americana. Where once electric guitars squealed now mellotrons, acoustic and pianos were gently plucked, swept up in almost melodramatic orgies of orchestral magnificence. It was shocking, it was achingly beautiful, it was one of the finest albums of 1998. Suddenly the band were swept off the scrap heap and thrust still blinking into the limelight. The success of album helped the new acoustic movement out of the blocks, guided The Flaming Lips back to a mainstream audience and made Fridmann one of the hottest producers in the world. In the wake of the hype one might cast a slightly more scathing critical light over ‘Deserters Songs’. True there are moments of awe inspiring delight here, such as the opening ‘Holes’, the beautiful ‘Opus 40’, the charming whimsical ‘Hudson Line’ and the simply wonderful pop of ‘Godess on a Hiway’. However, interspersed with this were pointless flickers of self indulgence such as ‘The Funny Bird’ or ‘Pick Up if Your There’ and tracks which outstay their welcome, ‘Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp’. ‘Deserters Songs’ is a great album, but it was not one without flaws. So now to ‘All is Dream’, the Rev’s fifth full length record, this is the come down record in pretty much all senses. One could almost suggest this is the sound of the hangover after the celebrations of ‘Deserters Songs’ success. As on the previous album the creative nucleus remains Donahue and Grasshopper, joined by Friedmann who again produces and plays bass and drummer Jeff Mercel. Much of the ingredients which made the preceding release great again surfaces here, soaring windswept strings, a timeless semi-traditi
onal sense of melody, gentle breathing soundscapes and Donahue’s unmistakable high pitched yet honeyed croak. However, a darker mood is prevalent this time, there is a hint of the nightmarish to 'All is Dream', a smattering of the sinister crops up on a number of tracks. Whilst 'Deserters Songs' occasionally showed signs of surrealism, there was never the sense of the spooky which invades a number of the songs here and the subconscious of the listener. Veteran producer Jack Niteche who famously leant the band his bowed saw for the recording of ‘Deserters Songs’ was to have produced here, but his untimely demise prevented the union. Fridmann has been quoted has hoping his work echoes that which Nietche may have created. This might well be true but in terms of the sound there are clear similarities between this and the previous album. What has been added is a sense of the uncertain or unfamiliar, ‘All is dream’ is not a comforting record. It broods in an odd and almost unrecognisable way, that it does so with such beauty however, it a tribute to the talent of it’s creators. The album opens with a clear statement of intent with a rousing string overture which forms the central motif of ‘The Dark is Rising’. The obvious reference point is the score to a Bond movie, in particular the Robbie Williams inspiring ‘You Only Live Twice’, from which this is but a chord change away. The strings sweep into your living room from the moment the play button is depressed carrying with them a sense of a mighty ocean, a notion which reoccurs throughout the album. The hulking orchestration eventually dies away however, to be replaced by a ghostly piano and Donahue’s ever fragile vocals which essay the simple yet poignant melody. The lyrics are a lament to unrequited love, “I dreamed with you in my arms / But dreams are always wrong.” Tempered with a bittersweet realisation o
f fate and reality “But dreams don’t last for long.” The melody builds gradually, never gaining full strength before being carried off again by the swooning string section. This formula is repeated on a second verse before mellotrons and an almost ethereal wail join the orchestral crunch when it returns once again. Before you know it the song is gone, disappearing in a beguiling haze, contrasting vividly with the opening. It is a distracting beginning and one that hints of wonders to come. ‘Tides of the Moon’ is a better reflection of the mood of the album as a whole. Developing out of a sparse synth wail and a dark, malevolent sounding bass which characterises the song’s hidden menace. The vocals remain the same, quiet, not altogether in touch with the melody but the backing is curious, bubbles of organs, extended keyboard washes and even a telephone ring in the background. As the song builds towards the chorus a jet black wash of fuzzy guitar takes the track over, adding to the claustrophobic impression. The ghostly e-bow which lurks around the second verse’s melody particularly adds to the unsettling texture, and you realise that Donahue’s voice sounds just like you might expect a spectre to sing. The tinkling keyboards which surround the end of the second verse try to lighten the mood, but fail miserably, this song is mired in a dark dream led fog. The melody is slow but assured, the song drifts into the ears and carries you away, rather like a disturbing lullaby. The female vocals which back Donahue at the close, don’t quite fit but their presence is soon forgotten in a brooding closure of guitar, which hints at their earlier work, albeit far more controlled. ‘Nite and Fog’ in complete contrast is a far more simplistic and more easily enjoyable pop song. It is very much this record’s ‘Goddess on a Hiway’, and unsurprisingly has been released as the
first single. The pop hooks are not quite as pronounced this time, but the effect is much the same, uplifting and beautiful. The song begins with a gentle acoustic line, rippling rather like water, before the strings crawl in with the drums and the song climbs towards to the choirs. The rhythm becomes more pronounced as the sound swells until the songs reaches its high water point, the swings weave in and out until a clattering drum pattern and a piano climax as Donahue cries “But you want it all...” The vocals are far more relaxed then on earlier tracks, with Donahue adopting a more comfortable mid range tenor rather than a creaking falsetto. The melody meanwhile is resolutely major key and is sunshine to the darkness seen elsewhere. ‘Chains’ shares much more in common with ‘Nite and Fog’ then ‘Tides of the Moon’, certainly in terms of structure and execution. Like the latter, ‘Chains’ adopts a more traditional verse-chorus led format and a more conventional band led playing. Beginning again with a haunted piano, quickly the song leaps into life with a pounding drum rhythm and electric guitars subtly positioned. Donahue returns once more to his spectre like croon, but the song provides a crushing chorus compounded by a sea of guitar and deranged strings. The song has such temper and force behind it , it sounds almost like grunge as performed by a full orchestra. The classical piano crashes that prelude the instrumental also add to this impression, whilst the melody provides the glue that keeps this juggernaut together, something the vocals never seem likely to do. Mercury Rev here prove that they are capable of more then just dreamy ballads. Dreamy ballads however, are what the band do best and ‘Little Rhymes’ is another magnificent illustration of their talent. The introduction is completely sparse, a strange hushed keyboard is the only accompaniment to the voca
l. Curiously however, it is soon joined by a compelling drum beat, which gives the track purpose and poise rather then merely drifting. Choral female vocals soon creep in the background as do a hint of pan pipes, before the sugar sweet but never sickly melody of the chorus kicks in. The second verse, chimes with the naked drum beat adding tension to a fast transforming track, the guitar which appears during the second chorus gets a lovely treated solo before the track floats into the final verse. Whilst the irresistible rhythm marks the song out, the song nevertheless invokes a swooning relaxation in the listener, as if swept along by the music. ‘Spiders and Flies’ is perhaps more what you would expect, piano led, the song is almost an somewhat diseased Elton John. The orchestration which joins on the second verse, sounds strangely distant, like an old gramophone record played somewhere in the distance. Donahue’s vocal is perhaps his most heartfelt and seems to connect with the listener far more directly then previously. This is perhaps curious, given the nonsensical nature of the lyric “Spiders and flies / Live and die /. Eight legs to stand on / and two wings to fly.” Yet the belief in the vocal is telling, there must be some profound meaning to this Lewis Carrol-esque stream of consciousness, we may never guess at the true meaning but our attention is held anyway. ‘A Drop in Time’ meanwhile is a candy flavoured concoction, paying homage to Leonard Cohen both lyrically and musically but retaining its own identity. The rain drop style keyboards give the track its structure, with Donahue’s vocal joyful, there is almost a hint of Christmas to the music. The nutcracker-esque strings and drums which erupt on the final chorus provide the final icing on an already delicious cake, there’s even an array of chiming bells to celebrate. Closing track ‘Hercules’ is undoubted
ly possessed with epic grandeur. One gets the feeling that we would not put up with this kind of semi ridiculousness from any band, but at the end of this record it just seems to make perfect sense just like ‘Spiders and Flies’. The tracks builds from just an acoustic guitar, to another sweeping orchestral laden conclusion, sparkling with rich pretension and all the drama of the Greek tragedy. Like ‘Deserters Songs’, ‘All is Dream’ is not perfect. Whilst there are no half realised song fragments like that album present here, there are a couple of tracks that missed the quality control check. ‘You’re My Queen’, starts off as surreal as they come, with Donahue’s vocals sounding especially deranged and unhuman, before the track suddenly dissolves into bombast, with pounding pianos and swirling detailed guitar appearing from no where. The song seems to be a tribute to Queen the band, but comes across as a slightly off beat piece of whimsy. Not offensive, just a little out of place. The distinctly strange ‘Lincoln’s Eyes’ is a far worse offender however. It manages to both out stay its welcome by meandering along for over seven minutes, but also fails to conjure up a single convincing melody during its interminable length. The backdrop created is undeniably interesting, all funeral bells and female requiem vocals and Donahue’s performance fits perfectly, but the song doesn’t convince. It is an interesting rather then enjoyable listen. ‘All is Dream’ is a better record then its predecessor, although the highlights don’t quite shine as brightly as say ‘Opus 40’ or ‘Holes’, this time the gaps have been filled in. All the songs have been fully realised, rather then left as fragments and as a result the consistency of the album is far greater. ‘All is Dream’ is perhaps not as instant as much of ‘
;Deserters Songs’, only ‘Nite and Fog’ really manages to instantly convert, but repeated listens reveal what is probably the band’s finest release to date. Haunted, untouchable yet strangely desirable, Mercury Rev have crafted a record which is everything a dream should be.
Oh dear. You all know the feeling - a band you've always liked follow up their best album with a real turkey, and you can't help but reassess their previous work in a new light. It happened to me with Blur after "The Great Escape", and now I fear Mercury Rev have done it to me as well. Most people only heard of Mercury Rev after 1998's fantastic "Deserter's Songs" became a critical and commercial success, but they'd already been releasing albums since 1991's acid wigout "Yerself Is Steam", following that up with a string of albums including "Boces" and "See You On The Other Side", which mixed gorgeous, dreamy ballads with brain-fried experimentation. "Deserter's Songs" kept the magic, focussed it onto a strong set of songs, and won hearts all over the world with its beautiful/creepy fairytale spooksongs. As hundreds of bands will attest, following up a huge hit album is never easy. Retreat from a winning formula and you alienate the fans, stick to what you know best and the critics will accuse you of standing still. On "All Is Dream", the Rev seem torn between a more commercial, arena-friendly sound and their more familiar intricate dreamscapes, and end up with a foot in each camp but their heart in neither. "All Is Dream" is a strange record, managing to sound simultaneously pompous and overblown, and halfhearted and directionless. Alarm bells set in right from the start, as a huge orchestra crashes in to announce "The Dark Is Rising". It sounds like the overture to some new Andrew Lloyd-Webber atrocity, and has the most laughable first line of any album I've heard in years - "I dreamed of you on my farm/I dreamed of you in my arms". When it's followed by the empty prog-rock bombast of "Tides Of The Moon", you can feel a real stinker coming on. "All Is Dream" already has the sound of a
cocaine album, all crashing drums, 50-piece orchestras, rampant over-production and ridiculous lyrics. Although the rest of the album is more restrained, it doesn't get much better. "Lincoln's Eyes" brings the spookiness but forgets to bring any melody along for the ride; "Little Rhymes" is as irritating as its title; "Spiders And Flies", with its chorus of "Spiders and flies live and die/8 legs to stand on and 2 wings to fly", verges on the point of embarrassing; and "A Drop In Time", a hideous Leonard Coen pastiche, rushes past that point and has you reaching for the Off button long before the closing "Hercules" is allowed to swell to its tedious, again Lloyd Webber-esque climax. Only forthcoming single "Nite And Fog" can hold its own with their previous work, standing head and shoulders above its fellow tracks by simply being an example of what the band do best, i.e. take immediately catchy, accessible melodies and twist them into new, magical and occasionally unsettling shapes. The worst thing about "All Is Dream" is that Jonathan Donahue's voice, so beguiling on "Deserter's Songs", grows so irritating by the end of the album that I can no longer listen to their previous albums without feeling similarly irritated. "All Is Dream" was meant to be the album that not only consolidated Mercury Rev's position in the alternative rock hierarchy but also the one that gave them that final push into the mainstream. Sadly, by tailoring their sound to the arenas they thought were about to welcome them, they've destroyed any possibility of that happening. It's an absolute tragedy.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 The Dark Is Rising
2 Tides Of The Moon
4 Lincoln's Eyes
5 Nite and Fog
6 Little Rhymes
7 A Drop in Time
8 You're My Queen
9 Spiders and Flies