Mercury Rev - The Secret Migration
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: June 6, 2005
Review by Andy ArgyrakisEven though Mercury Rev's late 1980s beginnings date back to Buffalo, New York, it wasn't until nearly a decade later until America fully caught on. Though the sometimes psychedelic pop, usually melodic rock and always experimental act earned kudos in the U.K., it took the U.S. until 1998's Deserter's Songs to truly catch on. That project marked Mercury Rev's first with V2 Records and one of its more accessible up until that time, though it still possessed the Flaming Lips quirkiness and left of center lyricism from past works. All Is Dream followed in 2001 to further critical praise building much anticipation for the brand new (and somewhat over due) The Secret Migration.
Four years may or may not have been worth the wait (depending on the dedication level of the listener) but either way the group delivers 13 cuts that once again evoke bits of the Lips with the additionally lush, piano based pop of Grandaddy plus the fairly tell storytelling of early Genesis and Elbow. "In the Wilderness" is the record's best all encompassing example, floating by with dreamy chord progressions, fantasy filled metaphors and plugged in bliss with pianos pounding all the way. Conceptual and musical similarities resurface on "Black Forest (Lorelei)," which begins with Coldplay-like key strikes and mellows out under the entrancing vocals of Jonathan Donahue. He sounds equally engaging on the trippy "First-Time Mother's Joy (Flying)," which could potentially be credited to the influence of inebriation if it weren't for the front man's incredibly vivid imagination.
Although such selections are enchanting all across the board, others are less mesmerizing and certainly don't match up to the bulk of the other V2 releases. "In a Funny Way" is a missed opportunity at recapturing the magic of Phil Spector's pre-suspect days, during which overpowering psychedelia stains his signature wall of sound technique. "My Love" has its fair of strung out qualities, including dragging piano parts, overly hesitant acoustics and wishy washy phrasing. The disc ends on an even drabber note courtesy of the almost dirge directed "Down Poured the Heavens," which hurls into an dismal drain of nothingness. Such stunting of the otherwise opulent offering can't solidify Mercury Rev's latest as whole hearted purchase, but at least it will provide partial points of ethereal and enigmatic pleasure.
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