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Sunday, Jan. 30, 2005

LISTENING POST: CD REVIEWS

Mercury Rev: "The Secret Migration"


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Along with their occasional partners in crime, The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev made orchestral pop safe for college radio in the '90s. Both bands started out as psychedelicatessens, and like the Lips' Wayne Coyne, MR's Jonathan Donahue possesses a limited vocal instrument that makes it necessary for him to sing in a shaky high voice. But the Lips were always the pop-friendly wits, while MR were genuine kitchen-sink weirdos. That contrast vanished with 2001's "All is Dream," which crystallized the disparate pop tendencies that characterized MR's previous career best-seller, "Deserter's Songs," and outdid the Lips in terms of pure sweetness.

What their new record, "The Secret Migration," lacks in melodic diversity it makes up for in dramatic sweep. Producer and ex-member Dave Fridmann gets evermore liberal with the strings, guitar overdubs and drum reverb, and, given the wide-eyed cosmic wonder of the lyrical content, one can be forgiven for thinking the group listened to nothing but old Yes records for the past three years. Each song takes off on gossamer wings that turn out to be surprisingly sturdy considering how much altitude they achieve. And that's the aim of great psychedelic music -- to get you high.



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