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With their new album ‘All Is Dream’ intent on being the most perfect album of 2001 it is interesting to pause and ponder on Mercury Rev's somewhat humble beginnings. Of course, they have already delivered a classic album in the shape of 'Deserter Songs'. Before this album's effortless grace Mercury Rev tinkered with their sound to a point where the results felt like an interesting collage of ideas but lacked that killer instinct and focus. 'Boces' released in 1993, was Mercury Rev's second album. Named after a juvenile rehabilitation programme in New York it is perhaps a good indication of the mental state of the band at the time. Promoting the LP, they embarked on a support slot with Spiritualized. Their performances were consistently hindered by infighting and substance abuse became a nightly occurrence. A sloppy indecipherable song like 'Girlfren' from the album, highlights the inner and outer demons that were taking their toll. It is quite disturbing and really should not have been chosen to tie up what is otherwise an impressive, if quite flawed, album. 'Meth Of A Rockette's Kick' is the audacious opener on ‘Boces’ that sounds like it could have come from the mind of a schizophrenic. The song literally trips itself up under the weight of its distracted meandering. The fact that the sweet brass sounds filter through at all is remarkable as the cacophony of voices, French horns, percussion, screeching guitars, trombones and tinkling piano keys threaten to strangle the life out of them.Very nice, but if bustling city centres are not your want then avoid. After the peachy nerve of the opener, Mercury Rev go on and ruin it all by spluttering through 'Trickle Down'. Sounding like a cut from a soundtrack to a particularly bad independent movie, it features some of the lousiest humming this side of hell. Lucky then that the ecstatic charm of 'Bronx Cheer'
brushes your teeth clean of the previous tunes lagging bad taste. 'Bronx Cheer' is one of the few examples of Mercury Rev playing it straight. Creating the perfect pop song is one thing but making it sound fresh after 20 listens is another. 'Bronx Cheer' splashes about enthusiastically, falling just short of manic but those rushing chords do cause a few flutters. David Baker's sweet lilting vocals are accommodating, warm and fragile. Baker left the band soon after 'Boces' was released leaving full vocal duties to the principal songwriter Jonathan Donahue (who started out as a member of the Flaming Lips!). The fuzzy vocals on 'Boys Peel Out' adds to its lazy charm. The bass playing just about musters a riff and the whole atmosphere adds to the feeling that the tune could have been recorded at six in the morning after one too many whiskeys. Towards the end there is a mini jazz jam to round off that laid back vibe. 'Downs Are Feminine Balloons' is even classier. Purpose built guitars shimmer on the horizon and the delicate flute playing is divine. Baker's vocals are subtle and charming and don't distract from the accomplished musicianship that swells around them. Like a quieter Dinosaur Jr foray into abstract pop, listening to it makes you feel warm inside. The album's unchallenged highlight comes when all the effective parts to Mercury Rev's sound fuse seamlessly together. 'Something For Joey' dons its persuasive cap with the most eco friendly of sounds. The trombone is partially hidden by some delightful guitar playing, the momentum is aided and abetted by the clearest of flutes and the harmonies have genius at work written all over them. It all comes to an end too quickly so perhaps some of the bands trademark noodling could have enhanced the musical drama. 'Snorry Mouth' reintroduces the theme of uneven mess. The words lack focus and by the end
it has just about out stayed it's welcome. Luckily it contains just enough qualities to warrant attention. Pity the same can't be said for 'Continuous Drunks And Blunders' which is just a waste of plastic. I guess it would be fine if you're about to embark on a course of meditation but otherwise it is redundant. 'Hi-Speed Boats' restores a little direction to proceedings. Donahue and Baker share vocal duties, taking control at intervening moments while a post-rock gale whips up the ante. It's got a start, a chorus of sorts and it doesn't drag its heels so be thankful for this simplistic approach. Trying to make sense of the images on the album's cover is difficult. Two wooden figures, one naked, the other perched underneath wearing a 'I love mum' T-shirt. There is humour in the image but the smile raised is awkward. Pushing the listener or merely provoking discussion it is certainly eye catching. Jonathan Donahue has described 'Boces' in his own unique way; 'your rebellious second kid who doesn't pay attention to one word you say and is always in trouble'. Yeah, but you gotta love the little mite all the same. Mercury Rev are the most important band in the world at the moment, try to saviour their glorious present but don't forget to admire their deliciously shady past.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Mon Amie La Rose
7 Righteous Path
11 One Brief Moment