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Yerself Is Steam

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Album Review

Music dictated not by logic but by intuition, Yerself Is Steam is an album at war with itself, split by its desire to achieve both melodic pop bliss and white-noise transcendence within the same space; it succeeds brilliantly, avant-bubblegum fuel injected by fits and flourishes of prismatic chaos. From the comic malevolence of David Baker's mad-scientist creations to Jonathan Donahue's opiate lullabies, Yerself Is Steam is vividly cinematic — between the roller coaster feedback of "Coney Island Cyclone" and the narcoleptic ebb and flow of the climactic "Very Sleepy Rivers," the songs perfectly evoke their titular aspirations; likewise, from the album title (say it out loud) onward, the lyrics revel in the quirks and idiosyncrasies of language, buoyed by a homophonous prankishness and dada rhyme schemes, which, in their own odd way, suggest a kind of poetry. A near-perfect debut from a band that would only get better from here on out. [The American edition appends the superb single "Car Wash Hair," while some foreign releases include the bonus disc Lego My Ego, a crazy quilt knitted together from unlikely covers (Sly Stone's "If You Want Me to Stay," Miles Davis' "Shhh/Peaceful"), Peel Sessions highlights, and wonderfully loopy studio chatter.]

Biography

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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