Transition albums often have a bad rap. Of course, we usually only know they are transition records in hindsight so it must be that we retroactively apply the term. That or maybe some critic guesses extremely well at the time. (I really doubt it, though.)
This is undoubtedly a transition album for the band, between the earlier, crazier psychedelic sound and the refined pop of Deserter’s Songs. Though I have never been the biggest fan of this band – even though I generally like them – I have at least managed to hear records on both sides of this one, so I know what the transition is. (I sometimes only know an album is a “transition album” from reading reviews, when I’m less familiar with the band.)
But, as transitions go, this one is pretty great. There are moments that would make the early version of this band very proud. And those moments make me think I really need to listen to the early version of this band more than I currently do. (I somehow missed them when I was first getting into the Lips, which is kind of nuts. And when I finally got around to them I was to busy listening to too much music to pay enough attention.)
And then there are songs, like “Everlasting Arm”, which sound like dry runs for Deserter’s Songs. Maybe not quite as good as the material on that record, but you can hear the band working out how their new sound should sound.
There’s so much variation in the Neo-Psychedelic world and I don’t just mean stylistically. Like their are bands content to ape what bands in the ’60s did and there are bands that are willing to just dabble with a little bit of backmasking here and some very ’60s effects there. And then there are bands that really charted their own course. Mercury Rev are one of those bands. I can’t think of another record that quite sounds like this (aside from other albums from Mercury Rev).
And it’s a reminder to me that they were perhaps the most interesting Neo-Psychedelic band of the era. And I should listen to them more.