MERCURY REV – ” ‘Deserter’s Songs’ 20th Anniversary ” 2 Cd Reissue

Posted: May 27, 2018 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Mercury Rev celebrates ‘Deserter’s Songs’ 20th Anniversary with a very special acoustic and intimate performance…

An intimate, acoustic evening featuring many of the stories and songs surrounding the Mercury Rev’s heartbreaking 1998 classic ‘Deserter’s Songs’. Performed in the fragile ‘whisper and strum’ way they were originally written, this promises to be an extraordinary glimpse into the forces that nearly destroyed a band and the strange events leading toward a most unexpected return. Mercury Rev’s influential orchestral rock landmark from 1998 has been reissued in 2xCD form, with an extra disc of demos and rarities.

Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs were mailed out to press in a cardboard-replica postal packet, complete with a stamp and a postmark advertising its release date. This was no random act: In 1998, a new Mercury Rev album could have felt like a postcard from a long-lost, old friend. Unlikely beneficiaries of the post-Nirvana major-label cattle call, Mercury Rev initially overcame the inter-band acrimony that fueled their first two brilliantly frazzled albums (1991’s Yerself Is Steam and 1993’s Boces), only to slip further into oblivion with the more refined but commercially ignored 1995 release, See You on the Other Side. A subsequent improvised recording released under the name Harmony Rockets (1995’s Paralyzed Mind of the Archangel Void) suggested the band was forsaking populist ambition to delve deeper into the psych-noise underground. Aside from a songwriting credit for Rev ringleader Jonathan Donahue on the Chemical Brothers’ Dig Your Own Hole, by 1997, Mercury Rev had effectively vanished.

The arrival of Deserter’s Songs on the nascent V2 label was a brow-raiser in and of itself; but that sense of pleasant surprise turned to dumbstruck disbelief once the CD was dropped in the player. Mercury Rev had flirted with symphonic flourishes and sentimental balladry before, but usually delivered them in a haze of distortion (Boces’ “Something For Joey”) or cheeky, irreverent arrangements (See You on the Other Side’s “Everlasting Arm”). Deserter’s Songs’ opening track, “Holes”, however, was something else entirely: Never before had Donahue left his helium-high croon so vulnerable and exposed, and never before had the band’s densely textured arrangements been deployed to such moving emotional effect, with the song’s eye-welling surge of orchestration and weepy bowed-saw lines perfectly complementing Donahue’s crestfallen lyrics.

And while there were always themes of New York state iconography running through the band’s disjointed discography– the Coney Island Cyclone, the Rockettes, Bronx cheers– Deserter’s Songs projected an especially vivid sense of place, casting a set of intimate, romantic narratives against the staggering natural beauty of the band’s upstate New York surroundings. Credit producer/bassist Dave Fridmann for foregrounding certain agrarian classic-rock influences– namely, Jack Nitzsche-era Neil Young, the Band, and Brian Wilson– that were heretofore buried behind the band’s wall of squall; Mercury Rev even went so far as to solicit guest contributions from Levon Helm and Garth Hudson for some authentic Big Pink flavor.

This unmissable event takes place at Glee Club Birmingham on 10th December 2018.

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