Mercury Rev
Deserter's Songs


4.0
excellent

Review

by Zachary Powell USER (64 Reviews)
October 24th, 2006 | 17 replies | 10,144 views


Release Date: 1998 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The highlight of the band's discography, Mercury Rev collect the notes they had worked with, thrown out most of them, and what is left is euphoric and very catchy dream pop.

2 of 2 thought this review was well written

While the bands come from different backgrounds and appeal to different audiences, there is no use in denying the strange connection between Mercury Rev and the Flaming Lips. Both bands have two different eras of recording, the earlier stage reserved for hard rocking and a heavier sound, while in the latter of their careers both eased into more pop based songwriting and music making. The similarities run so deep as even former Rev member Johnathan Donahue became the guitarist for the Flaming Lips on In a Priest Driven Ambulance. This of course was only a stint, and soon enough he was back with the old group. Weather you want to say the career paths, Deserter's Songs for Mercury Rev is what Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is to the Lips, the second in a series of lighter sounding records, and considered by many to be the band's best.

Of course, bands simply do not change genres overnight, and it took the group many years to reach the creative peak they display on Deserter's Songs. This is their poppiest album, but it took a long road to reach this point. In the past, the band had a more apathetic view toward music, not bothering to write up set lists for live shows and in some cases, not finishing songs. After a brief fallout, the band has gathered back up from the ashes of disinterest, and with the help of some lovely string arrangements have put themselves back on the map, and in a big way.

It is not only the strings that make the key point for the band, but the work each member put into this effort, especially from those not used to being in the band. It was quick work for new drummer Jeff Mercel, but like it would be difficult as Mercury Rev are not highlighted by their percussion section. The attention is instead trusted upon their front line instruments, and in the form of additional new member, keyboardist Adam Snyder. Coming into this new band situation and really quickly jumping to the role of leader and origin of much of the noise on this record must have been quite the experience; but it is one that was well played by Snyder, who fit in with the band's new sound. Of course these are only whats new with the band, and the standstills within the core of the group are what accept the change and keep it running. The old standstill is of course main guitarist and songwriter, Johnathan Donahue. Even with the new times he remains the band's leader and guides them through this new age.

One refreshing aspect of this record is the newly placed emphasis on lyrics. Though not normally picked out of the crowd for the writing talents of Donahue or the band, this turn sees that element definitely improved. The words written are not used for personal attacks or to mainly vent or express feelings; instead they are used in vignettes, each one spaced out throughout the work and a joy to listen to. Why on one disc you can listen to stories of being on the Hudson Line (Hudson Line), people who for a living dig holes ("Holes"), and about being on sea ("Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp"). Alright so the stories aren't exactly super extravagant, but they are certainly well written and enjoyable to listen to. Of course, this wouldn't be true if not for the members of the group honing their music talents together to set the scene for the stories to play out on.

The mood and feel are another highlight from this record. Like the band has now been conditioned to feature, they put a dreamy mood in their stuff, aided by the chamber of instruments they utilize to make the music. On the outro of the opening track, Holes, the end of the tune is accompanied by Sean Mackowiak's strongly played clarinet. The clarinet work is only one of the many elements that lead to a very dreamy feel. Taking into consideration how the mood plays off the lyrics, it would seem fitting that Mercury Rev make music that is easy to get stories across and over, and indeed they do. With these stories, there needs to be a voice to pilot the ship, and Donahue remains in this role, using his high but not too high vocals to guide the plane. While this voice may come across as annoying to some, others will see it does the job just fine.

So there you have it, the new age of Mercury Rev is marked by cute storytelling, a free and whimsical mood, and is anchored down by new members as well as old ones. Though this lineup would change for their next record, All is Dream for the time being the band must have felt as complete as ever, creating this snapshot that is well worth listening to.



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user ratings (89)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Sepstrup
October 24th 2006



1563 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I was thinking of reviewing this. It's a pretty good album (I listened to Tonite It Shows often a few years ago, didn't know the rest of these songs). Probably a 3,5-4 for me.

Digging: How to Dress Well - What Is This Heart?

Neoteric
October 24th 2006



3243 Comments


Again, good review.

SotR
October 24th 2006



3 Comments


This album is pretty average compared to Yerself Is Steam and certainly not worthy of 4 stars - I mean jeez - Hudson Line is just so cutesy it makes me want to vomit. Holes is awesome though. I'd say this is a 3, with Yourself Is Steam being a 4.5 roughly.

Zebra
Moderator
October 24th 2006



2647 Comments


Boces is an amazing piece of work but this album sounds a lot different.

Fuff24
December 9th 2009



1118 Comments


I should probably get this

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
June 3rd 2011



14982 Comments


holy fucking shit this is great

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
June 3rd 2011



14982 Comments


very high 4.5 for now

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
June 16th 2011



14982 Comments


this just got reissued and pitchfork bnm'd it; you all should get it it's amazing

Yotimi
June 16th 2011



6436 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yep. Plus the Lips owe a lot to this album

Psychopathologist
June 16th 2011



1924 Comments


awesome album

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
June 16th 2011



14982 Comments


oh jeez i thought the soft bulletin came out before this. yeah they must have been super influenced by this whilst making that album

jefflebowski
October 24th 2011



7340 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

production is fantastic, I just find the songwriting a bit weak

Digging: The Fall - Hex Enduction Hour

jefflebowski
October 24th 2011



7340 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yerself is Steam is my personal favorite by them

zakalwe
May 17th 2013



6415 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Gotta bump this beauty. Appears to be unjustly overlooked here.

alabasterjones
October 2nd 2013



62 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Goddess on a Hiway = best breakup song ever. For realz. So simple but so, so, so sweet.

Digging: Clipping - CLPPNG

Egarran
January 22nd 2014



252 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The production by Dave Fridmann, who also did Soft Bulletin with Flaming Lips, is awesome.

This has some weak points but also some incredible songs. Mandatory album.

Pheromone
July 3rd 2014



3351 Comments


Perfect listening for this weather

Digging: The The - Infected



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