Reviewed by Michael Chamy, Fri., Sept. 21, 2001
All Is Dream (V2)In the three years between 1995's See You on the Other Side and 1998's breakout Deserter's Songs, Mercury Rev underwent a metamorphosis. They ditched the psychedelic freakouts of old and all but abandoned rock & roll, crafting instead a sugar-plum fantasia of piano, strings, and singing saw, overseen by versatile bandmember/superproducer Dave Fridmann. The result topped year-end lists all across the land, winning over tons of new fans and setting the stage for a tough follow-up. It's now been another three years, and surprisingly, Mercury Rev has not only matched the Herculean effort of Deserter's Songs, they've surpassed it. Like the last album, All Is Dream kicks off with a pretty, tug-the-heartstrings moment in "The Dark Is Rising," an orchestrated ode to the strange, wonderful realm of dreams, that may be Jonathan Donahue's most tender piece since the early chestnut "Car Wash Hair." Then, the Rev begins a proud march across terrain that re-establishes them as a rock & roll band in the classic sense. The beat is back on All Is Dream, and on "Tides of the Moon," it melds symphonic rock & roll bombast with Revved-up psychedelia and Donahue's unmistakable falsetto. On "Lincoln's Eyes," primal rock solos emerge from the shiny, dreamy cloud, and "Hercules" caps the album off with a Janes Addiction-like power epic of the first order. It's Donahue's songwriting, though, that so effectively suspends reality on standouts like the divine "A Drop in Time," with talk of relationships and mythologies, and most of all, melodies that stick in your craw.