Oooh look, a new Mercury Rev album looms on the horizon! The Light In You is the first we've heard from the group since Snowflake Midnight a full seven (!) years ago. 2015-era Rev material is sweeping and symphonic again, Jonathan Donahue's nigh-on Disney vocals swooping above a mixture of elaborate instruments. Out on Bella Union.
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If you weren’t told otherwise then it would be hard to believe that Mercury Rev are led by a bearded middle aged man and not a precocious nine year old girl. Their later career attempts to Disney-fi the soundtrack to Annie have reached their apex on this album, which uses more than one spoonful of sugar to get the medicine to go down.
‘The Queen of Swans’ isn’t a bad opener - it’s full of tinsel and stars and grand orchestration. Jonathan Donahue sounds more and more like the Three O'Clock’s Michael Quercio each passing day, and in my book that is a very good thing. ‘Amelie’ is another early winner. Starting out as some kind of star spangled ballad taken from Prefab Sprout's sickly sweet ‘Andromeda Heights’ album, it slowly builds in intensity and the repeated riff of "Amelie, unlock the door" works in a rather magical way.
This, though, is the most synthetic record ever made. Nothing seems real. If these are real strings then they have been processed to sound like synth strings; meanwhile the end of every single bar sees a kettle drum employed. The ghost of Christmas past and Aled Jones's ‘Walking in the Air' haunts ‘You’ve Gone With So Little So Long’ and I think, think I can hear a real bass guitar in there…though the drums have obviously been played with someones finger on a keyboard.
At its best it makes us all feel like a princess. At its worst - as on ‘Central Park East’ - it just goes on and on and on getting sicklier and sicklier. Mercury Rev inhabit a magical world of their own making that bears absolutely no resemblance to their earlier incarnations. It’s certainly sweet at times, but I fear you could get the same result from just going home and eating seventeen boxes of Milk Tray.
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- The Light In You by Mercury Rev
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