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Mercury Rev – Deserter’s Songs (1998)

July 19, 2014

[Album 330/1001]220px-MercuryRev-DesertersSongs

There was a funny/sadly accurate post on CBC this week, proclaiming 1999 as the worst year in music history.

Based on the list, it’s convincing!

As I previously ranted in a Fatboy Slim review, 1998 wasn’t much better.

There was the odd standout of course (Mermaid Avenue, Lauryn Hill), old favourites were still putting out great stuff (Phantom Power, Navy Blues) but few would call the ’98 calendar year one of the all-time greats.

Not an awful year per se, just a bizarre transitional time for music.

However, when there is no one dominant sound that record labels are eagerly replicating, sometimes more interesting music breaks through.

Take Mercury Rev.

Deserter’s Songs has the vocal frailty of Elliott Smith and the musical far-out fantastic-ness of The Flaming Lips.

It even has a moment early on reminiscent of “Sleep in Heavenly Peace” from Silent Night.

So, not your typical rock record!

As a whole, the record is a grower.  The record also grows best as a whole, it’s not one for the shuffle feature.

I’m surprised Goddess on a Hiway wasn’t a bigger hit in Canada; fortunately, as I’ve since learned, it wasn’t so overlooked across the pond.

It may not be the most inherently exciting record but at the nadir of popular music in the late 90s, Deserter’s Songs likely provided an exciting promise of better music days ahead.

Especially when compared with some of those unwelcome late 90s earworms in the CBC post above!

From → 1990s

  1. Great album. 1999 was also the year of Flaming Lips’ Soft Bulletin, so not all bad!

  2. ianbalentine permalink

    In my top 5 of the ’90’s. I don’t know if they’re on your list, but if you like this one, try The Sophtware Slump, by Grandaddy. Agree with Andy on the Soft Bulletin, as well.

    • Don’t know that one but I like the name already – I’m keen to hear someday what else cracked your top 5!

      • ianbalentine permalink

        Of the ’90’s? So, Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips, Stereolab, Super Furry Animals and about 10 bands tied for 5th!

      • Even if not commercially huge, all of those picks got love from the 1001 – Deserter’s songs, Soft bulletin, emperor tomato ketchup (great name!), and fuzzy logic

  3. A lot of people seemed to have this album back in the day, without the band themselves ever being particularly big. It’s a good album though

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