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Deserter's Songs

32 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD (29 Sept. 1998)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Bmg/Gee Street
  • ASIN: B00000BKI4
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 415,011 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Holes
2. Tonite It Shows
3. Endlessly
4. I Collect Coins
5. Opus 40
6. Hudson Line
7. The Happy End (The Drunk Room)
8. Goddess On A Highway
9. The Funny Bird
10. Pick Up If You're There
11. Delta Sam Bottleneck Stomp
12. Track 12

Product Description

BBC Review

Given their current position in the music industry picture as main stage players at the world’s most highly regarded festivals, it’s easy to forget just how from out of nowhere Deserter’s Songs was. NME’s album of the year in 1998, its makers hadn’t registered on many radars with the preceding See You on the Other Side, and the disappointing performance of said 1995 album had left vocalist Jonathan Donahue, fronting the group for the first time, in a dark place. He couldn’t have predicted how their next long-player would be received.

Deserter’s Songs emerged with little initial fanfare, but soon its beautiful constituent pieces – shimmering psychedelic pop, immersive indie-rock, spectacularly engrossing passages of sumptuous instrumentation – pricked ears in the direction of the New Yorkers. As a whole, the album doesn’t actually hang together that brilliantly – 2001’s All Is Dream is arguably better conceived – but when you’ve got stand-alone songs like Holes, Opus 40, Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp, The Funny Bird and the gorgeous Goddess on a Hiway in your aural arsenal, who cares that the comparative filler’s not quite up to scratch?

Of the aforementioned offerings, opener Holes sets a fine tone for the best of what follows – woozy, romantic, achingly earnest in its fine articulating of deep emotions, it’s the sort of precedent-setting song that ends many a band’s (reputedly) finest album with the very first track. But there’s better to come here, amazingly, the pinnacle of the record’s impressive pulling on the heartstrings arriving with Goddess on a Hiway. Listening a decade after its original release, its impact hasn’t dimmed in the slightest, Donahue’s plaintive cry that “I know it ain’t gonna last” stirring something untouched by the majority of allegedly affecting outfits, something sitting in the very depths of the soul. It’s a stunning track, still – relatively rudimentary of verse-chorus-verse arrangement, but captivating of execution. It remains Mercury Rev’s most vital recording.

That line – “I know it ain’t gonna last” – could have heralded the end of the band. So disillusioned were they with the reception of See You on the Other Side that Deserter’s Songs was released as something of a swan song. How plans changed: as a direct result of subsequent across-the-board acclaim, Mercury Rev were elevated to mainstream status and have enjoyed considerable exposure ever since. This collection is more than a catalogue classic – it’s the catalyst for a career that might never have been. --Mike Diver

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 Sept. 2000
Format: Audio CD
"What was all that about?"was my first reaction when I heard this album, I couldn't believe how hyped it was.But as experience has taught me before the best albums are the ones you initially hate so I listened a few more times still not really getting it,but on the umpteenth listen I started to notice it's charms no longer was the lead singers voice annoying and with each subsequent listen it get's better and better and I even like the odd incidental tracks which litter the album, this now ranks alongside OK computer and Moon Safari as one of my favourite albums.It also has the strangest hidden track i've ever heard at the end and I love that too.Play this one full blast with the window open and look at the bewildered faces on people walking past.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Feb. 2000
Format: Audio CD
This is an album that you hear and say "they can't be serious, can they?" as you listen to the singer's strangely cartoon like voice and impossibly twee mellotrons and ultra high strings. It's only when you listen to the complex orchestrations that you begin to realise this band is indeed serious. "Deserters Songs" sounds like candy but tastes like something darker, giving us glimpses of an american landscape full of despair, humour and hope. It's an emotional ride, and has the feeling of albums like OK Computer and Achtung Baby, that drift along and leave hundreds of layers of meaning, saying far more than they suggest but never appearing to be pretentiously profound. It even ends with a good ol' downhome footbanger in Delta Blues Stomp, that lifts the spirit and leaves you with a reflective, exciting and technically superb album.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 4 Mar. 2000
Format: Audio CD
Few albums have ever left you wrapped in emotion all the way through. Whether you listen to the classically-haunting "Holes", the gospel parody "Opus 40", or the amazingly infectious "Goddess on a Hiway", the listener is stuck for the entire 45 minutes. After the drum-drenched upbeat eccentricity of "Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp", the listener really doesn't know whether to feel hysterically happy or insanely depressed. This album is one of the most beautiful LPs ever written, if only for the permanent enigma of why it was written. In a few words, "Deserter's Songs" is freeze-dried emotion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Farhan Haq on 25 Mar. 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
When Mercury Rev first arrived and blew my head clean off with the astounding brilliance of Yerself Is Steam, I believed they could never again produce such a magnificent piece of work. It's darn good to be wrong, although a different beast, Deserters Songs is just as hauntingly majestic. The majority of the songs are filled with a subtle strangeness, an other worldliness, Jarvis Cocker likened the feel of the album to the way those old fairy tale movies get you, I agree, a happy sadness if you will. It's an emotional journey, often leaving me glassy eyed but clueless as to why. This is beyond psychedelia, folk rock, pop, whatever, it is truly unique genius despite hearing umpteen influences/references throughout. Deserters Songs is one of those stand alone albums that defies genre and 'just is', it puts you in a celebratory melancholic state in a similar way to Bowie's 'Hunky Dory' or DJ Shadow's 'Entroducing'. Lyrically and thematically diverse, it keeps giving, the more you listen, the more you discover. Not just a musical triumph, Johnathan Donahue's gorgeous vocal delivery varying between straight up vocals, crooning and Shari Lewis doing Lamb Chop.

Moving, haunting, beautiful, timeless and epic, this is the kind of album that will make you feel upset for not having discovered it sooner, you will feel like you've wasted time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Demob Happy on 24 April 2008
Format: Audio CD
Mercury Rev's 1998 album was undoubtably a turning point, a massively influencial re-envisioning of the pop-rock form that inspired countless imitators. Marginally pre-dating The Flaming Lips' equally stunning The Soft Bulletin by about one year, in my view it began a protracted period of American dominance in indie rock (Radiohead excepting) that remains a decade later. Probably the album for which the term psych rock was invented, Deserter's Songs eschewed the orthodoxy of the period for lush orchestrations, faux-naive vocals, lullaby-like melodies, and kaleidoscopic harmonies. Unlike their British counterparts, their music favoured awe-struck wonder and whistful romanticism over gloom-laden paranoia or the back-to-basics approach of the (slightly later) post-punk revival. Psychedelic without being prog, but too weirdly off-beat to be mainstream, Deserter's Songs had a then unfashionably wide-screen grandeur that enabled the alt-rock scene to once again embrace a broader sonic pallet. Replete with horns, piano, violins and bowed saw the album has influenced countless acts from The Earlies and Animal Collective to Midlake and Grandaddy. A majestic, wide-eyed classic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gerald on 13 Dec. 2007
Format: Audio CD
It can suit any mood, any time of day, any age group, etc. This really is one of best records of the past 20 years. No doubt about it. There's an almost classic or timeless feel to it. As soon as you hear it you can tell it's quality and in places it's hard to tell when the recording was actually made, which to me is a sign of a great piece of music. Very hard to describe, however, the production on this is stunning.

The reason I'm writing this review? Because I've lost my copy and I'm looking to purchase another one, which must in itself say something.
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