By: Chris Long
Mercury Rev | website | facebook | twitter |
Released on October 2, 2015 via Bella Union
It’s been seven years since Mercury Rev last put out an album and while they haven’t exactly been doing nothing with their time – guitarist Grasshopper became a father for the first time and the band toured Europe creating
live soundtracks to their favourite films among other things – the wait for new material has felt like a lifetime for fans of their swirling psychedelic rock.
During their recording hiatus, they have released a deluxe version of their breakthrough work, 1998’s Deserter’s Songs, and popped up at the head of several festivals to give the fineries of that record a live airing.
According to Grasshopper, it was the playing of those tracks that “helped us look at where we’ve been and where we were going” and pushed him and co-founder Jonathan Donahue to realise they had “some loose ends to tie up” – a sentiment that has led to this, the band’s eighth album (give or take some side project and soundtrack works).
Thankfully, the replaying of Deserter’s Songs has not meant the pair have tried to create a Part Two to that album. That’s not to say there aren’t echoes of that 1998 classic on display – ‘Autumn In The Air’, for example, sparkles and shimmers into a pounding chorus with an echo of the bombast of Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp, while ‘Amelie’ has the same lilting sunset quality that made us fall in love with ‘Tonite It Shows’ – but it is far from the only record that is invoked as ‘The Light In You’ plays out.
‘You’ve Gone With So Little For So Long’s building tumult and shining vocal harmonies make it feel like a lost gem from the All Is Dream sessions, the bouncing and upbeat heartbreak of ‘Coming Up For Air’ could fit snugly into 2005’s The Secret Migration and ‘Are You Ready?’ picks up the indie dancefloor feel of their last outing, Snowflake Midnight, and runs with it joyously towards the horizon.
Yet this is no retro amalgamation or nostalgic retreading of past glories. Instead, The Light In You’s message is one of consistency, an underlining of the band’s confidence in their own abilities and a reminder that even if the times and the personnel have changed – this is the first Mercury Rev album not to have band co-founder Dave Fridmann on production duties – the quality and consistency of the band has not.
It’s a strong, reassuring and vibrant album, with some fascinatingly beautiful moments. Opener ‘The Queen Of Swans’, for example, is a track which is both jaw-dropping and heart-exploding, and there are even a few surprises, not least of which is the unexpected but strangely addictive 60s psych wig-out of ‘Sunflower’.
The Light In You closes with a tribute to the music that has inspired Mercury Rev, ‘Rainy Day Record’, which includes, in these days of digital downloads, a deliciously retro statement – “For the first time in forever, I hold my breath waiting for side two” – which sums up how any fan will view the first play of this record. One listen to it though will be enough to get a simple message across: breathe easy, it doesn’t disappoint.