Once upon a time, there was a band called Mercury Rev, who made some of the best Ye Olde Rock'n'Rolle in the music world.
But long before Mercury Rev began making Ye Olde Rock'n'Rolle, they made sometimes noisy, more often brilliant psychedelica. Rich, panoramic music is paired with some truly entrancing songwriting, making this among their best albums to date.
Somebody plays chopsticks as the album opens, with Jonathan Donahue intoning softly, "I stabbed myself back into the night/One heel in front, one heel behind/Life in the Empire State/Angels and devils before my eyes..." I think it's meant to be a "first time in New York" story-song, especially when the horns, rhythm and bass all explode in a mad parody of city traffic.
Things only get better with the following songs: swirling pop songs, explosive bass-rockers that Queens of the Stone Age wouldn't be ashamed of, and hilariously eerie little jazz-edged numbers. It follows the initial arrival at the Empire State Building, getting used to the place, first mature love, losing virginity, and watching the sun rise after a wild night. And finally Donahue and Co. end the album with "Peaceful Night," a fatigued-sounding jazz ballad.
Mercury Rev's more recent works have been more fantastical in nature. But "See You On The Other Side" predates that, with a very different theme: Growing up in the city. The entire album reflects that, from the jazzy piano and brass to the sound of traffic and sirens.
At the same time, it has the sweet feeling of being dazzled by the bright lights and exuberent nightlight. "With a wink from a starlet's eye a string of pearls come to life," Donahue sings softly, sounding almost overwhelmed by the music. "Who knows what black and crazy thoughts swim inside a girlfriend's heart?/No brighter jewel is there above than the gem of a girl still in love..."
Mercury Rev's thick, layered sound is in full force here, with thick layers of guitars, bass, bowed saw and wurtlizer, along with electric piano and sweeping strings. It's a credit to their talents that they can convey both the beauty and the chaos of a major city like New York, all through instrumental music.
"See You On The Other Side" is among Mercury Rev's most exceptional albums, and for this band, that's saying something. Beautiful, wrenching and bittersweet.
This is weird, especially after a first listen. But once you listen to few of the tracks a few times you begin to realise that it's pretty good stuff. There are influences from everthing - jazz, bebop, hiphop, rock and alternative. At times it sounds cluttered and noisy, but beneath that lies some decent music and catchy melodies. for example 'Empire State' has a one chord piano line all the way through, but the hook line has the same kind of cathiness as The Beatles. This music reminds me more of Pink floyd's early days though with Syd Barrett, but more jazzy perhaps. Because Suddenly out of nowhere an improvised flute or sax will burst into the music. This is different, but becuase this was Rev's first album I brought, and I have only heard two songs from their other albums, it's difficult to say whether it's any better or worse than their other albums. From what I've gathered it's more of transistional album between the departure of David Baker and Deserter's Songs (the writing of which also didn't include Chambers and Thorpe). It's worth a listen, but expect it to be a difficult listen at first.
This is an extremely brave sounding record; Mercury Rev mainman Jonathan Donahue said himself that there were absolutely no compromises made when recording this extraordinary album and his dilligence reaps great rewards. See You On The Other side is certainly not an instant album; it is densely layered and fires off on tangents almost as soon as one musical figure is explained but, you know, that's kinda the point. You don't listen to Mercury rev if you like Phil Collins, after all, and for fans of adventurous, accomplished and imaginative playing, you just cant out-do the Rev! This is a romantic and absurd record; I expect a lot of painters will warm to this one as is seems to give out never ending inspiration. Basically; nice one!
Quite unlike anything else before or since in rock, the REV's second effort sees the promise of YERSELF IS STEAM firmly realised by a barrage of delicate guitar effects, sonic soundscapes and dreamy lyrics. What I love about this band is how they are always looking to try new things. Unless you are a REV afficianado you might not link this excellent album with their later masterwork DESERTER'S SONGS (also essential by the way and arguably the finest album of 1998), but listen attentively and you will slowly recognise Jonathan's recognisably offbeat vocals and Grasshopper's dexterous guitar soundscapes.
Superb opening track EMPIRE STATE revolves around a hypnotic rhythm underscoring the virtuoso guitarwork, this leads directly into the shorter, snappier YOUNG MAN'S STRIDE. Every track here is built upon complex rhythms that resonate with intelligence and invention. This is not an easy album to classify but the rewards of multiple listens are worth your time. A neglected classic that deserves its place amongst the finest left-of-field indie rock albums of the last 20 years.
Only in the State of New York could a record like this be made. It is hopeless trying to describe the overwhelming array of melodies across the 8 tracks featured here, but hey, here goes... Essentially, this is the sound of an American songshow spilling out on to the streets and breaking into a riot of colour, noise and beautiful rushes of harmony. The flute and piano that rocket out halfway through 'Life in the Empire State', the saxophone break in 'Sudden ray of hope' that should go on for days, the squall of 'Racing the tide' and the fragile, exhilarating moments abound everywhere else (gospel, blues, country, soul, showmusic, rock and invariably, roll) make this sound like everything and nothing you've heard before. This seems to be the beginning of the trilogy (hopefully more though) that 'Deserter's Songs' and 'All is dream' are part of; a wonderful testament to the sheer beauty of American music.