Mercury Rev

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Mercury Rev
Mercury rev.jpg
Mercury Rev at All Tomorrow's Parties in 2004.
Background information
Origin Buffalo, New York, United States
Years active1989–present
Past members

Mercury Rev is an American indie rock band formed in 1989 in Buffalo, New York. [5] Original personnel were David Baker (vocals), Jonathan Donahue (vocals, guitars), Sean Mackowiak, known as "Grasshopper" (guitars, clarinet), Dave Fridmann (bass guitar), Suzanne Thorpe (flute) and Jimy Chambers (drums).



The first years with David Baker

The band's members met while students at the University at Buffalo. Buffalo media studies professor Tony Conrad was a strong artistic influence on co-founder Grasshopper. [6] The band was initially formed to score its members' student films. [7]

With their early records, Mercury Rev offered experimental, psychedelic rock, which gradually shifted to a melodic, ornate sound. Mercury Rev is often compared to The Flaming Lips, [8] and share close ties: soon after the band's formation, Donahue also joined the Flaming Lips as second guitarist and appeared on two of their albums; and since the 1990 album In a Priest Driven Ambulance , Dave Fridmann has co-produced every Flaming Lips studio album to date except 1993's Transmissions from the Satellite Heart .

Despite considerable critical acclaim, [9] [10] [11] their early releases never gave Mercury Rev more than cult popularity, [8] though they appeared on the smaller second stage at some 1993 Lollapalooza stops. Baker left after their second record, Boces (1993), citing musical and personal disputes; he later recorded an album as Shady. With his departure, the thematically darker and musically experimental features of the band began to disappear. [4]

Transitional period

The band's first post-Baker album, See You on the Other Side (1995) contained a variety of styles, including a sprawling psychedelic opening track and noise rock numbers like "Young Man's Stride" (for which a music video was released), but also more melodic songs, such as "Sudden Ray of Hope".

That year, the group also recorded and released the album, Paralyzed Mind Of The Archangel Void, under the moniker "Harmony Rockets". The album featured a single forty minute track of mostly instrumental psychedelic improvised music. It was rated four and half stars, out of five, by AllMusic. The group performed it again in the Don't Look Back concert series in 2009.

Wide critical and commercial success

Beginning in the late 1990s, the band based itself in Kingston, New York where Donahue was born. [7]

The 1998 release of the acclaimed [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] Deserter's Songs (which featured appearances by Garth Hudson and Levon Helm of The Band) made Mercury Rev unexpected pop stars. In the UK, NME magazine made Deserter's Songs their Album of the Year. [17] Donahue's earnest, high-pitched vocals and concentration on relatively concise, melodic songs gave the band's material an entirely new feel and much increased popularity (Deserter's Songs spawned three UK Top 40 singles: "Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp", "Opus 40" and "Goddess On A Hiway").

All Is Dream was issued in 2001 and became the band's highest charting album in the UK to date (#11). It included "Little Rhymes", "Nite And Fog" and "The Dark is Rising," which reached No. 16 in the UK Singles Chart. [18] David Bowie producer Tony Visconti arranged strings for the album.

Later years

Mercury Rev's The Secret Migration was released on January 24, 2005. It featured the UK Top 40 single "In A Funny Way" (#28). The album itself reached #16 in the UK Albums chart. It was followed up in 2006, by a compilation album, The Essential Mercury Rev: Stillness Breathes 1991-2006 and the film soundtrack album Hello Blackbird.

The band released a pair of albums on September 29, 2008: Snowflake Midnight , and a free MP3 album of instrumentals, Strange Attractor .

The Light in You was released on October 2, 2015 through Bella Union, their first studio album in seven years. It reached #39 on the UK albums chart. [19] Mercury Rev's most recent album, a reworking of Bobbie Gentry's seminal album The Delta Sweete , was released in February 2019. [20] The album features instrumentation by Mercury Rev and a female guest singer unique to each song. Lucinda Williams, actress Carice van Houten, Beth Orton and Norah Jones were among the vocalists. The album was another UK Top 40 hit in the UK for the band (#32).

"Holes" was covered by The National's lead singer Matt Berninger in 2020.


In 2021 "Holes" was featured in the popular Sing 2 movie. Other movies in which the band's songs can be heard are Gunpowder Milkshake (2020, "Goddess On A Hiway") and Love And Monsters (2020, "Opus 40").

Band members

Film Music Live Improvisation for the short movie The Red Balloon Mercury Rev at Tel Aviv 11.jpg
Film Music Live Improvisation for the short movie The Red Balloon



YearAlbum detailsPeak chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)



1991 Yerself Is Steam
1993 Boces 43
1995 See You on the Other Side
  • Released: 19 September 1995
  • Label: Beggars Banquet
Paralyzed Mind of the Archangel Void(as 'Harmony Rockets')
  • Released: 10 October 1995
  • Label: Big Cat
1998 Deserter's Songs
  • Released: 29 September 1998
  • Label: V2
2001 All Is Dream
  • Released: 11 September 2001
  • Label: V2
2005 The Secret Migration
  • Released: 24 January 2005
  • Label: V2
2008 Snowflake Midnight
  • Released: 29 September 2008
  • Label: V2/Yep Roc
2008 Strange Attractor
  • Released: 29 September 2008
  • Label: Self-released
2013 Inner Autumn Outer Space
  • Released: 2013
  • Label: Self-released
2015 The Light in You 391527766
2019 Bobbie Gentry's The Delta Sweete Revisited
  • Released: 4 February 2019
  • Label: Bella Union

Compilation albums, live albums and soundtracks

Singles and EPs

Other contributions

See also

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  10. Archived September 23, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
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  13. Archived May 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
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  15. Archived October 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
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  23. Peaks in Australia:
    • All Is Dream: "Discography Mercury Rev". Retrieved 2011-12-26.
    • Deserter's Songs and The Secret Migration: Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia’s Music Charts 1988–2010 (PDF ed.). Mt Martha, Victoria, Australia: Moonlight Publishing. p. 185.
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  30. Martens, Todd (1 September 2001). "Mercury Rev Creates An Upbeat, Mythic World On V2's 'All Is Dream'". Billboard. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  31. "Le Top de la semaine : Top Albums Fusionnes – SNEP (Week 7, 2019)" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. Retrieved 18 February 2019.[ permanent dead link ]