Deserter Songs 10
( 1998 )
Holes / Tonite It Shows / Endlessly / I Collect Coins / Opus 40 / Hudson Line / Happy End (The Drunk Room) / Goddess on a Hiway / Funny Bird / Pick up If You're There / Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp
'Holes' is an excellent opening track, immediately setting out spooky saws, holes dug by moles, Syd Barrett, a jazz trumpeter, wobbliness and floating through the air late at night. Look at all those twinkling lights. Those funny little plans that never were quite right.
Once in every rare while an album arrives that literally astonishes me. So much so, after a first listen the giddy excitment and sheer wonder of the thing even existing needs a further four listens just to prove to yourself you aren't going mad. 'Tonite It Shows' is wonderfully and inventively arranged and orchestrated and plunges the listener into a land of dreams and fairytale. The drums beat like hearts and 'Tonite It Shows' is the most 'Pet Sounds' of all of the eleven songs here. A quick look at the instrumentation used on the album instantly reveals something - vocals, acoustic guitar, chamberlin, guitar, woodwinds, flute, piano, Mellotron, bass, background vocals, Wurlitzer piano, Mellotron, Hammond B-3 organ, harpsichord, clavinet, drums, slide guitar, violin, alto & tenor saxophones, flugelhorn, trombone, acoustic & electric basses, drums and bowed saw. You'll smile by the time 'Endlessly' comes in with its borrowing of 'Silent Night' melodies and shining angels cooing. Weaving through the crowded streets, he sings, yet the song sounds like you are alone yet surrounded by strangers, cold yet about to be hugged by a friendly bear, who is of course an angel in disguise. A hug in a mug, a valentine in song, reconcillation and adoration.
The backing tracks on 'Deserter Songs' are among some of the most considered and carefully prepared this side of 'Pet Sounds', and I don't draw parallels to 'Pet Sounds' lightly. The previous few Mercury Rev albums simply don't prepare you at all for 'Deserter Songs' which seems to occupy it's own little fairytale world. The Flaming Lips-like wounded vocals of Jonathon Donahue won't be to everyone's taste and those that like a little rock without so much orchestra will likely be advised to steer clear. We've got three instrumentals on the LP yet each one creates a delightful sonic atmosphere. 'I Collect Coins' sounds like the ghost of John Lennon playing piano in Joe Meeks studio. 'The Happy End' is a fairground gone wrong and 'Pick It Up You're There' is Aphex Twin reaching for the record button as he dreams another dream. The magic continues throughout only slightly diluted for the closing track, which is also superb, yet for different reasons. The fairytale continues for 'Opus 40', another supremely well arranged tune, 'Hudson Line' and the wordplay of 'Goddess On A Hiway' create images of vast countryside in the afternoon and smaller countryside in the evening as the autumn sun settles down. 'Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp' is the nearest 'Deserter Songs' comes to previous Mercury Rev and also one of the nosiest songs here. It's almost like a normal tune, no buzzing saws, yet plenty of superb playing even so. Love the bass line, dig the bass line and the bluesy little piano parts.
So, a ten? Well, when 'Deserter Songs' does what it does, it does it so well and simply better than anybody else has for decades. Cross Radiohead with The Flaming Lips circa 'Soft Bulletin' and add a dose of Brian Wilson and you'll have something approximating 'Deserter Songs'. Eleven songs, forty four minutes, that's your album when length mattered. 'Deserter Songs' is just right.
gazza firstname.lastname@example.org Adrian, big thumbs up - this is a 10/10 . This album is just a piece of musical magic . Symphonic pop that sounds like phil spector producing the band who have gone psych rock for the day .
It also has to be noted how goddamned beautiful this record is .
The quirky instrumentals fit perfectly too , splitting the record into nice slices that are easy to digest .
Great review too - you really get to the essence of what this inspiring record is about .
Id buy more modern records if they showed half the soul and ambition of this record which is fuelled by a overriding desire to communicate love to its listeners.