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All Is Dream

Mercury Rev

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Album Review

Moody, majestic, and unpredictable, All Is Dream plays like Deserter's Songs' evil twin, polarizing that album's gently trippy, symphonic pop into paranoid and exuberant extremes that range from the eerie lullaby "Lincoln's Eyes" to the giddy show-tune-in-search-of-a-musical "A Drop in Time." Starting with the symphonic grandeur of "The Dark Is Rising," the album's ambitious, self-indulgent vibe recalls '60s and '70s psych and prog rock concept albums as well as the band's own expansive body of work. The first half of All Is Dream journeys through the band's dark side with songs like the brooding "Tides of the Moon," which pits Jonathan Donahue's spooked, singsong vocals against appropriately unearthly theremins, glockenspiels, and organs, while the second half's "Nite and Fog" and "Little Rhymes" sound twice as sunny compared to the preceding weirdness. The contrast between the album's halves is so sharp that it seems designed for vinyl; flipping this record over would be immensely satisfying. Though nothing on All Is Dream is as immediate as Deserter's Songs' "Goddess on a Hiway" or "Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp," this album may be stronger as a whole, moving gracefully from singer/songwriter ballads like the beautiful "Spiders and Flies" to guitar-driven epics like "You're My Queen" and "Hercules." An unfashionably self-indulgent and earnest album, All Is Dream certainly isn't for everyone, and may not even be for some Mercury Rev fans, but in its own personal, insular way, it's another triumph for the band.

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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