US - New York - Full Moon 102 - 01/25/05
Mercury Rev are an extremely interesting band. They've been around a long time, having formed in the late 80s. Their instrumentation is weird: they've used clarinet and bass flute among other things. One of the people in the band is named "Grasshopper". Influentially, they're somewhat of a pivot band. Their influences are fundamentally The Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth and Syd Barrett. At the same time, they've been directly influential on some of the best modern day groups: The Flaming Lips, Gorki's Zygotic Mynci, Grandaddy, and Six by Seven, among others. A release like this is important, not only because of Mercury Rev's past, but even more basically, because music needs (we need) vets like them right now.
Mercury Rev's output has been as psychedelic and experimental as it has been pop and catchy. One thing that seems to run throughout, however, is a sadness. Even their most memorable melodies drip with a sort of blue-colored emotion that isn't contrived or fake. Nor is their sadness ever simply "too much", it seems tempered with a sort of wisdom. And while they've changed substantially from album to album, there is a concrete-hard consistency to their music that makes them who they are. Mercury Rev are definitely a Great band.
Secret Migration is Mercury Rev's 7th proper full-length. Before even hearing the album, my hopes are high. It would be a surprise for this album to be anything but extraordinary. Taking a look at the album art solidifies that idea even more. With an album like this, the first listen is more of a "can't wait to hear what these guys are doing now" sort of thing more than it is "um, is this going to be any good" sort of thing.
Secret Migration seems the least sad of any Mercury Rev album. Here, the color is more Red. Yes, it seems someone's in love! They also dispense with the experimentation almost completely on this album. No white noise, no out-of-tune or out-of-rhythm guitar solos, no oddities really at all. Unfortunately the album is a bit slow to get started. Nothing really stands out for me until Track 5, which begins a great 3 song combination: "Vermillion", "In the Wilderness", and "In A Funny Way". That is to say, these 3 songs invoked something ancient (or is it really a feeling of infinite now) in me. "Moving On" is an almost-ditty of a song, at 1:20. The singing is at its best here, multi-tracked and almost-odd sounding. Nice melodies and words
abound. This is definitely the neatest song on the album.
The record finishes out fairly mellowly. "First Time Mother's Joy" presents the first piano rhythms, which were usually somewhat of a Mercury Rev staple. The last song on the album, "Down Poured the Heavens", also uses piano and harkens back to the sadness of Mercury Rev. An interesting way to close, and a nice song.
There is a definite maturity that is very present in this album, moreso it seems than in any Mercury Rev album that came before - and that makes sense. They are getting sort of old. I bet Mercury Rev are family people. Whatever Mercury Rev's variables, they indeed go together to make an incredibly consistent and warming album. None of the songs here are all that immediately catchy, but that hasn't ever really been Mercury Rev's schtick. I'm still totally in love.
Copyright © 2005 Bill Banks