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Mercury Rev and the soundtrack to RI:SE

01:00 Fri 03rd May 2002 |

There have been numerous requests�to name the music used to promote the new Channel 4 breakfast show 'RI:SE'.

The song is called Holes and it's the first track from the Mercury Rev CD Deserter's Songs. Very good it is, too.

If I'd wanted your opinion...
Everyone says it's great, so it must be true. When Deserter's Songs came out, Dotmusic called the band 'masters of glorious soundscapes and epic avant-pop'; Q magazine swooned over their 'timeless American influences' and NME pinned their sound down as 'music of shameless grandiosity that plays out personal crises on an enormous scale'. The album was a 'modern classic'. Or in other words, they liked it.

What else have they done
Mercury Rev have had quite a tortured history, and with their early stuff, it really showed. Put it this way, sometimes it sounds like someone is being tortured!

That's not very generous.
It's quite restrained, actually. Pitchfork spoke of their 'sonic kitchen sink aesthetic [and] gratuitous noise splurges'. During the 1993 Lollapalooza Tour, they were so loud the organisers had to switch the electricity off to shut them up. Their first two albums, Yerself Is Steam and Boces, were fine examples of that.

But Holes is so relaxed and quiet. That's why I like it.

Early Mercury Rev was a very different beast from the one that recorded Holes. The initial leader of the band was David Baker, but they parted company in 1994.

Step forward guitarist Jonathan Donahue (ex-Flaming Lips) and a new sound and direction for the group, first with See You On The Other Side (1995) and then Deserter's Songs. Donahue seemed to be thinking about these changes when he wrote Holes:

'Bands
Those funny little plans
That never work quite right.'

So what changed
Apart from the personnel, the location did. They fled noisy, nasty New York City to the Catskill Mountains in upper New York State. Like many bands before them, they 'got it together in the country'. As you can tell from the music.

Are you suggesting they're hippies
Heaven forfend. But there is a link back to the late 60's. Levon Helm and Garth Hudson from The Band live in the area and both contribute to Deserter's Songs.

Sold. I'll buy it straightaway. And what next
The follow-up and current release is All Is Dream. It has suffered�a bit by comparison, though it kept the punters happy.

Given the fact that Deserter's Songs changed so much about the band, their sound and their fanbase,�they might have been worried about 'difficult second album syndrome', even though it was their fifth release. But it's gone down well.

So Mercury Rev are critically acclaimed. What about 'RI:SE'
The jury's very much still out. Unfortunately, so is the audience.

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