Tina's Rock Block
All Is Dream – Mercury Rev
All Is Dream – Mercury Rev
When do you listen to music? What is your favourite way to enjoy it? Do you listen the mix of new and old coming from the radio, when you iron hubby’s shirts? Do you choose some special records for the evening before your guests arrive? Do you listen to music at work? I do all of this. I listen to music nearly all the time and my choice for the moment depends on lots of things like the situation and my actual mood.
Today I want to tell you about a special occasion, when music is even more essential for me than normal (if this is possible). I talk about writing a fictional story. Lots of you are very good writers and I am really curious, which kind of rituals you have, when you sit down to write. I guess, I will start a thread on the board about it.
When I sit down to write, it’s very important to have the right atmosphere. I have two rooms for me in our apartment. One is my living and bedroom (I have one of these really functional bedsofas), which is packed with entertainment electronics (hello electro-smog ;) . The other rooms is my “creative place”, my “private office” I told you about in the David Bowie (attention: Bowie’s new record “Heathen” will be released in a few days!) column. This is also the place, where I write my fics. So when I go to work, I place some cookies and a big bottle of water on the table, I take care of nice lights in the room (enough at the table for my eyes and not too much in the rest of the room) – and then I choose some CDs I can put in the CD-R of my computer. Without music I cannot write a line. I need it to open my mind, to calm down, to exclude daily life trouble from the room. It doesn’t work with every kind of music. I went through my whole, not too small collection and tried all kinds of music. Some records I love most like my Black Crowes stuff for example don’t do it in this special situation. And some others, who barely fit in the normal life, are prefect – like Mercury Rev’s “Deserter’s Songs” and “All Is Dream”. And so I decided to tell you in this month’s column a bit more about this really extraordinary band.
Mercury Rev was formed back in the late 80ies in Buffalo as a sextet with Jonathan Donahue on guitar, David Baker as vocalist, clarinettist Grasshoper, bass flutist Suzanne Thorpe, bass guitarist Dave Fridman and drummer Jimmy Chamber. In the beginning it was more “a project” than a classic rock band, when Mercury Rev in the first place created soundtracks for the experimental student films of the musicians and their friends.
Parallel to Donahue’s (guitar) and Fridman’s (producer) work with the “Flaming Lips” Mercury Rev developed from a loose group of people jamming together to a real bans, who released their debut “Yerself Is Steam” signed to Rough Trade, USA. Although the record was critically acclaimed, the band could not profit from this success since RTD USA declared bankruptcy on the day of the record release and so the band was without promotion and distribution deal.
Although Mercury Rev released (on a small indie lable) the “Car Wash EP” only a few month later things did not work out too well for the band. For a longer period including the 1993 release “Boces” (their first UK Top 50 record) lots of rumours about a break-up and stories of awful shows with a on stage fighting band and a drunken singer were the only real news about them. The consequence of the conflicts in the group finally was the departure of singer David Baker. Guitarist Jonathan Donahue was now the charismatic front man of the group. As another change Dave Fridman decided to follow his long term passion to focus on sound-engineering and producing.
The re-organised band went back to studio in 1995 to record “See You On The Other Side”. When Mercury Rev focussed in the past on a rough kind of “space rock” sound this new release is a musical turning point in the band’s history. Without Baker’s darker impulses they opened their repertoire to a new diversity in style. The fascinating pop-jazz experiments, the emotional depth and Donahue’s goose bumps making voice amazed critics and fans.
Whoever thought, that this success would make the musicians happy and optimistic, was wrong. Because of all the personal problems the first day members Chambers and Thorpe left the band, when Grashopper and Donahue went together with their new band mates Adam Snyder and Jeff Mercel to the loneliness of the Catskill Mountains to create a brand new version of Mercury Rev. With this new line up the band released the 1998 “Deserter’s Songs” and the 2001 “All Is Dream”.
And here we are with my both favourite records. I will not start to describe them detailed song for song. That would not fit in the concept of the music, which is a bigger ones. And I do not want to separate the two records, because they are very close in the musical style and the emotional depth. So what can you expect, when you listen to those records? You will hear a very extraordinary mixture of musical styles, lots of classical instruments, orchestral parts, a heartbreaking singing saw and Jonathan Donahue’s dreamy voice. If it works for you like it works for me, the music will open your mind and soul. I know that I am not the only one, who feels like this since lots of my friends love Mercury Rev like I do and I found lots of fascinated, highly commending, dreamy reviews, when I did some research for this column. So probably you will give it a tray as well?
A last note: Live on stage the band presents their in a much more rockin’ way, but they still understand how to bewitch their audience with long and hypnotising jam sessions. …. And finally, after the encore Jonathan Donahue sits down on a chair and plays – the singing saw.
Allmusic Guide about Mercury Rev
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