Mercury Rev – Yerself Is Steam

Mercury RevNow I do realise I talked about Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs not that long ago, which is undeniably the band’s best album but I have to admit I’ve got a soft spot for their debut album, Yerself Is Steam (say it quickly). This album was recorded at a time that the band were in love with pure volume, like a kind of poppier Sonic Youth without all the artiness. This was a band who went on tour and hung guitars from the rafters of gig venues, so the feedback could waft over the audience. Apparenty whilst performing in Denver as part of the travelling Lollapalooza festival, the mayor of the city demanded they stop playing. All good fun, but it was after this the band began to splinter under the influence of drink, drugs and madness. However they’ve left behind a rather good album from those crazy days.

Yerself Is Steam opens with “Chasing A Bee” which seems all sweetness and light until the chorus and the ultra loud chords come in. There’s a bit that comes in about three minutes in, where it sounds like someone’s hit you over the head with an electric guitar; it’s that atonal and piercing.  The lyrics are plain bonkers too “their eyes are livers/they give me shivers” is just one example. It keeps going and going until it seems to collapse under it’s own weight. It gradually comes to a close with the lyrics “what was once lost/can never be found/keep spinning in circles until you break new groud” which could well apply to the band themselves. The next track “Syringe Mouth” just stomps away in a blizzard of white noise and distorted vocals. “Coney Island Cyclone” is a much clearer song, with a recognisable melody that just doesn’t obliterate your hearing, but it’s over too quickly. It’s almost like the band thought “Fuck this! Let’s go back to fucking with people’s brains”. “Black and Blue” is a surprise with what’s gone before; it’s a Cocteau Twins-esque ethereal ballad with vocalist Dave Baker’s drunken mumblings over the top of it.

“Sweet Odysee Of A Cancer Cell In Center Of Yer Heart” (you can tell guitarist/songwriter Jothnathan Donahue was in the Flaming Lips can’t you?) has never really grabbed me; it’s huge and cacophanous, but for some reason it’s just never clicked with me. “Very Sleepy Rivers” just drones on a bit, but frankly the album could be complete shite because it’s made up by the glrorious “Frittering” has a slow build up that breaks into a hazy  chorus. Eventually it breaks down, and an acousitc guitar picks out a riff before this howling noise just overcomes the whole song. I’ve no idea how many guitars are being played but it sounds like dozens of them are being pummelled out of existence. Mind you all of this happens over 5 minutes into the song, so you could be forgiven that it’s predictable.

Mercury Rev – The Dark Is Rising (not off this album, but still brilliant):

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  1. A nice song. How’s that for critique!? lmao

  2. Hey, you have no idea how long it takes me to write one of these things. Any praise is good praise.

  3. Exactly, I said it was a nice song & any praise is good praise 😉




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