26 Sep 2015

Mercury Rev / The Light In You (album review)

Maybe the best way to start this review is with the following statement: even as a huge fan of shoegaze, dream-pop and US indie rock around the time the Rev really hit their stride, I only actually properly listened to Mercury Rev for the first time a few months ago when I found Deserter Songs at a car boot in Sleaford (where there, disappointingly, was no mods). For this reason, I'm not really sure I have any idea what the previous output of this band sounds like, and I'm just going to review this record for what it is; 11 songs and 45 minutes, and nothing more.

Opening with Queen Of Swans, The Light In You sounds so mystical and really shimmery; not like anything of this world really. The lead vocals of John Donohue are kinda like Wayne Coyne's on Soft Bulletin, and sound really neurotic, but are just so beautifully complimented by the instrumental arrangement that this just sounds so dreamy.

For the whole of the record, bar a few tracks, Mercury Rev's latest record just feels like a whistlestop sonic tour of woozy, misty dreamworld - strings and things and harmonic vocals combined with some ethereal production essentially give this the ultimate dream-pop sound, being incredibly dreamy without losing any of its pop sensibility.

The Light In You is just a largely euphoric record, but there are particular high points. Emotional Free Fall is a song that just has a lot of swaying momentum, taking queues even from more modern shoegaze bands like DIIV and Sunflower Bean, and Central Park East, although being earmarked as a bit of a duff track by some journalists, just has a wonderful feel to it all the way through - this band are so prolific at creating a really mesmerising blanket of sounds.

Maybe the album does have some bad tracks on it - or rather some that sound SO unbelievably outta place. Sunflower is a really odd cinematic jazz track that with a rampant horn section, sounds like the arranged marriage of the later Miles Davis albums and The Teardrop Explodes. Similarly, almost comic book Rainy Day Record is a bit of an odd choice for album closer, following the undeniably beautiful dream-pop ditty Moth Light with some almost childish northern soul stomp. Both Rainy Day Record and Sunflower are good enough songs, but I can't help but feel that they could have come earlier on the record so that the record could have ended in a relaxing satisfying way.

That said, there's no doubt that this is a collection of 11 really wonderful songs, and it's inspired me to seek out more Mercury Rev. I'm assuming this is their trademark sound, but it's a really perfect example of dream-pop tinged sad American indie rock, and if you need some more of that in your life (like I definitely do) then get in touch with The Rev.


(written by calum cashin)