Thursday, December 18, 2008

Yerself Is Steam

Back in Pittsburgh, I saw Sparklehorse open for Mercury Rev, probably sometime in 2000, but Google tells me this must have been on June 14, 1999. Wow that was a long time ago, almost ten years ago. My distinct impression of Sparklehorse was that they fucking sucked (an impression that would change 180° within a few years). Mercury Rev were great as usual but nothing on the order of their incredible show a few years before, December 12, 1995 (thanks again to Google). Karen and I showed up at Pearl Street in Northampton, Mass and were so blown away by them that by the end of the show, we were literally lying horizontally, slouching on chairs, like most of the crowd, entirely motionless. We did not move. We did not need to move. We just lay there flat, the soles of our feet facing the band, who were bathed in some kind of weird maniacal light show with skulls and strobes and salamanders and sulfur. It was like standing in front of a jet engine washed by waves of noise, our ears made deaf, our bodies merely swimming in a sea of aural beauty.

Later on, Mercury Rev fell in love with Brian Wilson and has continued on a long love affair with him, occasionally sleeping with The Band on the side. They make pastoral music sprinkled with psychedelia these days instead of psychedelic music sprinkled with total fucking insanity. It's all very nice but not quite as bewildering as their first, greatest album Yerself Is Steam, without doubt one of the greatest pieces of music ever committed to vinyl/plastic. Simon Reynolds called it "an exquisite armageddon of tortured dementia." Meshing their love of noise with melody, reason with insanity, flutes without cheesiness, and feedback with tenderness, they made a helluva noise. You could almost take a bath in the music that came out of the speakers from Yerself Is Steam, particularly its first track ("Chasing A Bee") and the last one, lasting an eternal 12 minutes ("Very Sleep Rivers").

Here in all its glory is "Chasing a Bee." The feedback that comes in at around 3:03 sounds like a FUCKING SUSPENSION BRIDGE COLLAPSING INSIDE YOUR HEAD.

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