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[Off The Record]
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Mercury Rev

This Buffalo groupís fifth album is a near-perfect song cycle about the transitory nature of things. Itís full of softly sung poetry fixed on departure and motion, and on matters of the corporeal and the heavenly. Singer Jonathan returns to the broad themes of love, popularity, perception, and the opportunities of fate as he sails his high and occasionally quite nasal voice over richer variations on the lush guitar-based orchestrations that won Mercury Rev contemporary psychedelic popís crown on 1998ís marvelous Deserterís Songs. The occasional unsteadiness of his intonation is the only thing that keeps this disc from being a masterpiece.

In a way, though, Jonathanís imperfections are as crucial as the graceful washes of mellotron and the meticulously arranged layers of piano, delay-laden musical saw, Hammond organ, reeds, horns, and strings. They bring out the fragility in the sharp contrasts between images of life and death in " Lincolnís Eyes, " humanize the insect characters of " Spiders and Flies, " and underpin the violence of " Nite and Fog " with sickly remorse. The pockets of shadows and light these superb players ó the other Revvers are Grasshopper (guitars), Dave Fridman (bass and mellotron), and Jeff Mercel (drums) ó weave into the music are breathtaking, providing a huge sense of scope and bold dynamics. All Is Dream is the kind of album you can listen to dozens of times and it still wonít yield all its secrets.


Issue Date: August 16 - 23, 2001

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