I would like to start by saying that I have enjoyed some of the previous releases by Mercury Rev, but alas, even Led Zeppelin released Coda. Their newest release (Mercury Rev, not Led Zeppelin) is titled The Secret Migration. On the positive side, the musicianship and composition of this album cannot be called into question. Jonathan Donahue (lead singer, lead guitar), Sean “Grasshopper” Mackowiack (guitar), and Jeff Mercel (drummer, keyboards), are a very talented trio. Mr. Donahue’s voice reminds me of Ben Gibbard, which I consider a very high compliment.
However, the meaning behind the songs fall short of a full comparison to that of their past work. Remember when Journey, Boston, and Styx made these huge orchestral albums about these fantasy places and characters (c’mon, Mr. Roboto)? These are the trite and overly sentimental lyrics of The Secret Migration, which strike me as a throwback: specifically, it is the psychedelic sounds that incorporate guitars, drums, and piano to create an orchestral sound, which was a hallmark of their earlier albums.
If we still lived in the days of vinyl and album covers, The Secret Migration would be covered in spaceships, giant colorful mushrooms, and lots and lots of unicorns (Note: I wrote this based on the copy of the album I received from the publicist, which sported a black piece of paper with the name and song titles in white print as a cover. I had no idea that the actual album cover was that of an airbrushed moth with giant eyes on the wings, and a pixie’s face. There is also a scroll floating around the head with Latin text written on it). Some of the lines on this album are so sickly-sweet I think I may have contracted diabetes of the ears. “Give us examples!” you cry. Fine, I will try, but each song weaves a fantastical tapestry that is hard to break into bite sized, easy to digest pieces.
The very first song on the album is titled “Secret for a Song,” and it delivers on its promise. “I’ll sell you a secret for a song/ I’ll give you my soul babe, and one day you’ll give me your own,” wow, that just went straight to my thighs. Okay, one more just show the fantasy aspect of all this. We will go to song number four, entitled “Black Forest (Lorelei).” The song begins: “If I was a white horse, and offered you a ride through a Black Forest/ If we took a strange course, promised you a danger for a while/ Ooh ooh Lorelei/ There’s no way around the forest, the only way is through, and there’s no way I’ll ever make it on my own without you.”
I would like to make one final plea and this applies to everyone. Can we all just agree to never address someone as “lover?” For example: “Lover lift me up,” and then repeat that ad nauseum. Thank you.
If you feel that I have been unnecessarily cruel in this review, then I apologize and offer you the opportunity to send me all the hate mail you feel I deserve. I just think that Mercury Rev is a talented band that has “jumped the shark” with this latest release.