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The Peel Sessions

Mercury Rev

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Album Review

When Mercury Rev released their debut, Yerself Is Steam, in 1991, few would have thought that such an extraordinarily dissonant and experimental outfit could turn into such majestic, orchestral pop tunesmiths, but folks said the same thing about the Flaming Lips. The group's fierce loyalty to creativity made it an obvious choice for a session or two with legendary producer/engineer John Peel, the results of which appear on 2009's two-disc Peel Sessions collection. Compiled over the span of ten years from a total of five sessions, the material tends to favor the group's wilder, earlier works, with noisy, free jazz midsections and cacophonous percussion, though later pieces like "Everlasting Arm" and a solid cover of John Lennon's "I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier Mama" help keep the compilation grounded in enough reality to toss a hook or two into any unsuspecting pair of ears that should happen by.

Biography

Formed: Buffalo, NY

Genre: Alternative

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

Not so much a band as a long, strange trip, the chaotic avant pop pranksters Mercury Rev formed in Buffalo, NY, in the late '80s. Originally comprised of 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, the sextet — always rife with personality conflicts — interacted with one another...
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