AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #187 : MERCURY REV

A GUEST POSTING by SWC

from The Sound of Being OK

Like the ginger one in Frozen once (partly) sang, for the first time in forever, I’m going to need a little help.

I’ll explain why.

As you will now know, KT wrote an ICA on the Manics,that was chosen for her by my iPod. Yesterday it was my turn to have a band selected for me, an even roll of a small red dice meant KT and an odd roll mean the iPod of Lord Badger of Bovey Tracey. I rolled a three. So Badger it was.

Roughly two hours later Badger reached track eleven on his iPod. He sends the email over.

“I’m sorry for this, track eight was Muse (and we’ve done them), track nine was Elastica, which would have been fun but rather first album heavy, and track ten was Crystal Castles, which you would have really enjoyed writing (true). Track Eleven was ‘A Drop In Time’ by Mercury Rev. I guess we could swap tracks ten and eleven around, only you and me would ever know”.

I sat and pondered this last sentence. It’s true that I would much rather write an ICA on Crystal Castles than I would Mercury Rev. I own like seven tracks by Mercury Rev, for years I avoided them after their (old) singer punched/slapped me in the face back in 1992 after he thought I called him a fat bastard (I didn’t, Graham did) outside Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone.

So I have to admit I was tempted. Then the realisation hit me that if I had Badger to thank for this ICA, that meant by the law of averages, he was going to have his ICA picked for him by the iPod of KT. Now, I’ve journeyed three hundred miles in KT’s car with the iPod on shuffle and I only recognised about three songs. It’s full of pop music, cheesy dance music and Outkast. Badger will never be able to write an ICA on Kelli Clarkson or James Morrison.

So I reply.

“Nope, Mercury Rev it is, but I will need you to send me over a bunch of tracks, because I own virtually nothing by them”. Three hours later I have a memory stick containing 42 tracks and a note saying, “this should see you right – remember no more than 4 singles, must contain a B Side or a cover or remix and have at least 4 album tracks. That’s the rules”.

Ok. Let’s do this.

Side One

Planet Caravan – Taken from ‘the Dark is Rising’ Single (and a Peel Session)

‘Planet Caravan’ was once described by one of Black Sabbath (I forget which one, definitely not Ozzy Osbourne though) as the sound of ‘floating through the universe with your lover’. Now, if you remove the every word of that apart from ‘floating’ you have an almost perfect description of Mercury Rev’s music. Their version of this is rather lovely as it happens, the vocals shimmer majestically over a backdrop of tinkling effects and barely there guitars.

Endlessly – Taken from Deserters Songs

Ok, I’ll get this out of the way now, there will be a lot of stuff from ‘Deserter’s Songs’ on this ICA because it is a pretty flawless album with not a second wasted. ‘Endlessly’ is a brilliant example of how good it is. It starts with this wailing that reminds me of the sort of music you used to get on 60s Hollywood melodramas starring the likes of Rock Hudson. That makes way to a quiet little vocal, an acoustic guitar and flute combo that at times comes at you like a misplaced Christmas Carol. All of which evokes the old tingly Goosebumps feeling.

Tides of The Moon – Taken from All Is Dream

I was dragged to see Mercury Rev at Glastonbury a few years back, and as I sat on the grass by the Other Stage trying not to listen I did a bit of people watching. When they played this, which was, if you ask me, the highlight of their set, I saw at least five grown men reached into their handily placed manbags and put on sunglasses. The sun was setting and the sunglasses were barely needed. That folks, is how good this song is. So good you need sunglasses to listen to it.

Chasing A Bee – taken from ‘Yerself Is Steam’

This is track one, side one of their debut album and it might just be the best thing that they recorded with David Baker on singing duties. The way his shifts from calm to angst, from humour to passion has to be heard to be believed. Then you get this amazing chorus and then you get something which I am struggling to even write, a brilliant flute riff. Yup, you read that right.

Goddess on a Hiway – From Deserters Songs

Which is easily the bands best song. A song which pulls on the heartstrings every time you listen to it. Donahue’s little cry of ‘I know it ain’t gonna last’ stirs emotions inside people that they didn’t even know they had. It is captivating, it is gorgeous, it is devastating and remains to this day a stunning piece of music. A track that is so vital to this band that if you suddenly deleted everything else that they had ever recorded, and just left this, it really wouldn’t matter.

Side Two

Lincolns Eyes – From ‘All is Dream’

In which Mercury Rev go all spooky and cinematic for a good seven minutes or so. Donahue adopts a creaky falsetto voice that sets us a series of creeping riddles that you think he wants us to solve but in reality he is just filling us in on the doubts that are rooted in his mind, nagging away at him.

Little Rhymes – from ‘All is Dream’

Turns out that I have included as much from ‘All is Dream’ as I have ‘Deserters Songs’ in this ICA. I think this largely because these are the two albums which showcase the band at their peak. This is track has a lovely little country inspired hue to it and is you ask me is slightly more commercial that most of their other tracks.

Tonite It Shows – From Deserters Songs

There are two things about this track. Firstly, the string arrangement on it reminds me of a Disney film. Secondly, Donahues voice on this, is spellbinding. The way he delivers the line ‘The way I lit your cigarette’ takes your breath away. It is immaculate.

The Dark Is Rising – From All Is Dream

At the start of this you get a load of strings sweeping in and crashing cymbals and you think ‘oh here we go, epic song alert’. Then all that stops and this sombre little piano starts up and you get something very different. Then the strings and cymbals are back conjuring up images of waves, darkness and stars twinkling away. Obviously there a thinly veiled messages about hope and fears going on here but underneath all that, this is very very good indeed.

Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp – From Deserters Songs

You know what I said up there about ‘Goddess on a Highway’ and deleting everything else they have ever recorded because that track is all you really need. Well ignore it. You need this track as well. Its nearly as good ‘Goddess on a Hiway’ but not quite, I’d still say that it’s something you need to own until your ears stop working though.

SWC

bonus track added by JC

Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp (Chemical Brothers Remix)

Just because. (it’s a b-side and a remix)

6 thoughts on “AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #187 : MERCURY REV

  1. Great ICA – I’m not overly familiar with the records prior to Deserter’s Songs but love everything afterwards. I’d have been tempted to include a couple from later albums but not sure what I’d remove to fit them in.

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