on 17 August 2007
Having waited in anticipation for an age to get their follow up to "All Is Dream", I have to say that I was disappointed. As much as I wanted to get into this, I found it harder and ultimately more uncomfortable every time I played it. I had to admit to myself that the great soundscape of the previous two CDs did not come across in the same mysterious and beautiful way.
This was almost Mercury Rev by numbers. The sound was still distinctive, and at times they managed to soar with some quality, but it didn't flow.
For me the opening kills it, the first 5 tracks I find not very strong, either from a quirky interest or musical standard. It pains me to say it, but that is my opinion. Having failed to entice me into their normally entrancing world, I just started to look for individual tracks that I hoped would save the day. I have never done this before as Mercury Rev usually manage to take you on a journey whereby the whole of the album seems almost seamless.
It does get better, from my point of view, when we reach "In The Wilderness", from here on in the feel of the CD improves. However, again, unlike the previous two CDs, this is not one where I close my eyes and drift away in rapturous bliss.
It may be a case of you can't win them all, or that it is getting harder to re-produce original material of the quality of previous offerings.
At the amazon price you can now buy it for as opposed to what it cost on its original release, its still worth buying. However, don't expect the same dazzling results.
Their next CD I wait for with a mixed feeling of expectant anticipation and dread. I just hope I haven't already heard the best that they can offer!
on 17 November 2004
Thanks to a weird twist of fate that is both too long to go into and pointless for the task at hand I have managed to get hold of a promo copy of "The Secret Migration" and what a lucky boy I am. Being a long time fan of Mercury Rev I jumped for joy when the said CD was placed in my hands and before I knew it I was skipping home with the intention of putting this baby on as soon as that front door slammed shut.
Well, on went the Cd and "Secret for a Song", the first single, rose from the speakers and I knew from than point I was in for a treat and I wasnt wrong. This is not an album for people who want to put on an album and be immediately humming along to some catchy ditty, as it has taken me more than several listens to really get to grips with what it has to offer. And, I hear you ask, what does it have to offer? Well I would say some of the finest work they have done to date with "In The Wilderness" and "The Climbing Rose" being utterly outstanding. Whether it will ever overtake "deserters songs" as my favourite mercury rev album I dont know but it has certainly lept over "I am dream". I would urge anyone who has enjoyed previous outings to leap off your sofas and get this album the second it comes out.
on 12 August 2006
This is good, very good...
A freind I know who works within the record industry gave me a copy of this album in Jan '05 (the limited edition, nice!) and at first I thought "hmmm this albums ok" and filed it away in my collection for a few months.
I then saw Mercury Rev support The Cure in the summer of the same year and their performance was mesmerising, they were without doubt one of the best live bands I had ever seen with Jonathan Donahue one of the most enigmatic frontmen.
From then on I played this album more and more and it just got better with each listen, to the point where I rate this album as one of my 10 'desert island discs'.
The album is thing of rare beauty both musically and lyrically, its absolutely magical and I dare say there will never be anything made like this again. For me if represents Mercury Rev at the pinnacle of their creativity and it completes a fantastic Trilogy of albums. 'Deserters Songs' was very good, 'All Is Dream' even better but words cannot do justice to how good this album is. In a sane world it would be heralded as an all time classic but I prefer the fact that not many have cottoned-on to the fact Mercury Rev are one of the best, certianly one of the most dynamic bands of our generation.
So forget 'Sgt Peppers', 'The White Album' etc guys...you're looking in the wrong places! Mercury Rev and the Secret Migration, THIS is a real classic!
on 21 February 2005
Upon the first few listens, it is hard not to be put off by the increasingly flowery nature of Mercury Rev's ageing process. The music matches the content of the album, somewhere on the borderline between self-obsession and experimentation. Of course, as with previous releases, there are periods of beauty, reminiscent of late era Beach Boys and some of the more pleasant late 70's prog records. Its all a far cry from 'Boces' and 'See you on the other side' which now seems very relevant, as those periods of raw invention are sorely missed.
That said, there are signs that this release is a grower and worth a listen, though 'All is Dream' covers everything here in stronger fashion. Existing fans, particularly of their early work will find this a struggle. Sadly the adult contemporary category seems closer by the song. So no real progress, hopefully a pretty stop on the way to the standards expected of Mercury Rev.
on 9 January 2006
In a natural extension of 2001’s All Is Dream, Mercury Rev’s sixth album is one of pomp and grandeur. Across Yer Ocean’s soaring melody is an early indication of what follows, as are the lilting pianos and rolling bass lines of Secret For A Song. Elsewhere, the fragile opening piano line of Vermillion is supplanted by an intense orchestral blast.
Jonathan Donahue’s enchanting vocals, which paint an almost perfect collection of idyllic fantasias, are the focal point, but guitarist Grasshopper’s exquisite solo on Black Forest (Lorelei) harks back to the presence he had on the best moments of Deserter’s Songs.
Perhaps aware that the whole thing could easily have slipped into the realm of bombast and ostentation, the band allow the album to drift slightly, with two bewitching instrumental works, Move On and Down Poured The Heavens, before offering one final push of uplifting energy with Arise.
Unfairly ignored upon its January 2005 release, only the most churlish would dismiss this unashamedly romantic and achingly beautiful album as cheap sentiment.
It takes awhile to figure out just what is wrong with "Secret Migration," the latest by lush-prog rock band Mercury Rev. But eventually it becomes obvious what the problem is: It's not grounded enough. Their sleepy, lush latest album is truly lovely, in the vein of their previous "All Is Dream," but their songwriting goes off into fantasyland too often.
The past releases by Mercury Rev have been on par with stuff like the Flaming Lips and Sparklehorse -- brilliant, otherworldly and deeply yearning. Here, the fairy-tale motif takes over, with that edge of orchestral pop and psychedelic rock. I suppose you could call it Ye Olde Renaissance Rock'n'Rolle, with all those mentions of "morning stars," white horses, sinister forests, silver oceans and fairy rides.
Musically, the band is still in solid form -- lots of epic soundscapes and rich instrumentation. Sure, they have wandered all over the musical palette, but they never fail to sound lush and interesting, with plenty of deep synth washed over slow, gritty melodies. The one flaw is that they lost that folksy edge -- especially the bowed saws -- that characterized their sound in "Deserter's Songs."
It starts off with a series of very grand, rich songs, which are sent up in the air by piano and organ, and only rooted by some very solid basslines. But with "Vermillion," the soft piano revs up into a faster tempo that carries over until the final round of songs, which are airy but surprisingly powerful. Synths and soft bass are what carry the songs into that pretty, if less intense, sound. Musically, it's lovely -- some excellent work here.
The songwriting is the weakest point. A few like "In The Wilderness" have the spare, grounded sound, but often the lyrics are dressed up in Ye Olde Rock'n'Rolle descriptions: "See how the rain, captured by the leaves,/Shimmers and falls, and lives on in diamond balls,/Like a necklace hung, over limb and branch,/For me to show to you, like gifts." It's extremely pretty, but it doesn't have that fearful, yearning note that their earlier albums had.
Mercury Rev still sounds excellent in "Secret Migration," but it's just a little too fairy-tale-ish for its own good. Were they to ride dragonflies less often, they would sound close to perfect.
on 28 May 2012
Oh come on, this album is beautiful and not less good than their previous records. A lot better than their early records. For me this band got interesting when they released Deserter`s song, followed by the equally great All is dream and then this great record.
on 21 January 2005
I was in awe from the time the cd started to play. the beauty of this album is really undescribable. beautiful lyrics with even more beautiful melodies that just seep beneath ur skin to take u on a nature trip alltogether. The awesome opener 'secret for a song' just lays the ground for what will be the best 38 minutes of music.further more into the album Jonathan Donahue talks about being a horse on 'black horse (lorelei)' and 'vermillion' has such an awesome end it just makes u dance along to it. Overall this album is worth every penny and something to die for. Good job boys!!
It's not often I get to sound smug about anything, but I saw Mercury Rev very early in their career-so early in fact that the very thought of a career at this music lark would have made them blanche- at "The Duchess Of York" in Leeds. They were a complete shambles but still oddly compelling but never in a gazillion years would I have expected them to produce the sumptuous sounds of "Deserters Songs" and now The Secret Migration. After the lacklustre "All is Dream" I must confess I thought they'd run dry whatever miracle muse they'd discovered when writing "Chasing A Bee", "Car Wash Hair" or "Goddess on a Hi-Way". Wrong. This is the biggest return to form since Michael Vaughn pan handled the South Africans around a bit earlier this year.
From the rolling tinkling piano strains on "Secret For a Song" with its delicious tumbledown arrangement it's clear that although the band haven't really progressed their sound radically that the song writing is about as good as it gets for the majority of this album, and allied to Dave Friedman's lush bold production it makes for a luxuriantly enjoyable listen. At times it's almost pastoral and I'm sure some real indie diehards will complain that they have deserted (Ahhh, that's what "Deserters Songs" meant.) the experimental aesthetic that made them such innovators ,but sod them, when the music's as gracefully compelling as most of the music on The Secret Migration is then it seems churlish to moan. Sure there is nothing as ecstatically melodic as "Goddess on a Hiway" or as ravishing peculiar as "Car Wash Hair", but its hard to resist "Vermillion" with its tiny silvery motes of dulcet instrumentation and its swoon inducing switch into the chorus. "In A Funny Way" is just superb in the way it allies Spectorish walls of sound to sparse Bunnymen like trails of guitar.
It runs out of steam towards the last third with "Arise" in particular resorting to tired narcoleptic rock indolence and it, s possible Jonathan Donahue's reed thin vocals could be become tiresome over the course of a whole album but overall I'd say this is a welcome return . In fact this CD has found itself migrating into my player more than anything else that's around at the moment.
on 7 February 2005
Although not a die-hard fan of 'The Rev' - I own nothing before Deserter's Songs - this album has finished my interest in the band. As with Lambchop's tedious 'Aw Come On' / No You Come On', there comes a time in many band's careers when the effect of their trademark sound no longer excites in the way it did before. It becomes a bit 'Mercury Rev by numbers'. This feeling is in part because the songwriting has become further immersed in some slightly-dodgy flights of fantasia which aren't quite as trippy or imaginary as you want them to be, and aren't as idiosyncratic as the band want you to believe. I have noticed that over the last two albums that the imaginary world of Mercury Rev can be a rather impenetratable one, beguiling and strange but somehow impersonal. This is especially evident in the lyrics of 'Black Forest (Lorelei)' where Jonathan Donahue imagines himself as a white horse inviting you for a ride. I'm sure this is meaningful to the band, but I'm not really feeling it. Elsewhere the lyrics are mystical and pastoral in turns, with Donahue speaking of the 'unseen force behind the falling leaves' without ever really sounding like he cares. David Friddman's production also has a way of keeping you at arms length on this occasion. It is a very glossy affair, and much of the intricacy and inventiveness of the playing is smoothed into a glassy sheen that is more soft rock than alternative. There are some amazing things happening in the mix, but they have been somehow homogenized. Saying all this, there are some great 'songs' (in the sense that there are some great melodies), in particular the single 'Secret for a Song', 'Across Yer Ocean' and 'Vermillion'. But where the Flaming Lips keep reinventing their production values and imagery, this seems merely a step sideways.