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See You On the Other Side

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Album Review

After David Baker left the group for weirder pastures, the rest of Mercury Rev returned with See You on the Other Side, an album very much in the group's expansive, experimental tradition, yet distinct from its work with Baker. The sprawling compositions, elaborate arrangements, and jazzy leanings Mercury Rev perfected on Boces return on See You on the Other Side, as exemplified by the opening track, "Empire State (Son House in Excelsis)." But without Baker's merry prankster vocals, the album feels a bit unbalanced, as though the group was still adjusting to making music without him when the album was recorded. The lean, tense "Young Man's Stride" could've had even more impact had Baker sung it but, for the most part, Jonathan Donahue handles all the vocal duties ably, swinging the group toward its gently whimsical side in the process. The brilliant single "Everlasting Arm" sweetly deconstructs Pet Sounds-style pop years before that became one of indie rock's dominant styles, while "A Kiss From an Old Flame (A Trip to the Moon)" lives up to its title with giddy, swirling flutes and otherworldly backing vocals. Dreamy, yearning songs like "Sudden Ray of Hope" and "Racing the Tide" revel in the unabashed prettiness that Mercury Rev used to hide under layers of freaked-out guitars, and "Peaceful Night," the group's quirky take on Tin Pan Alley songwriting, proves that they weren't getting less inventive as time went on, they were just getting subtler about it. See You on the Other Side's relatively short length adds to its rather unfair middle-child status, but it pointed the way toward Mercury Rev's breakthrough with Deserter's Songs, and is a completely charming — if underrated — album in its own right.


Formed: Buffalo, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

From their beginnings as avant-pop pranksters to their evolution into purveyors of rootsy, majestic psych-pop, Mercury Rev weren't so much a band as a long, strange trip. Formed in Buffalo, New York, in the late '80s, the band originally featured vocalist David Baker, vocalist/silver pickup guitarist Jonathan Donahue, guitar shaper/single-exhaust clarinetist Grasshopper (born Sean Mackowiak), rooster-tail bass flutist Suzanne Thorpe, bass explorer Dave Fridmann, and mojo stick drummer Jimy Chambers....
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