See You on the Other Side

Mercury Rev, 1995

I first heard of Mercury Rev at the Portland leg of the Lollapalooza 1993 tour (when it was still mobile festival). They were on the side stage—so busy kicking up such an unholy racket a younger version of me was a little put off. Apparently they later got booted from the tour for being too noisy—oh, the irony. I next saw them , touring in support of See on the Other Side, opening for Luna. This time was even more boisterous, but I was two years older and this go 'round, I found it utterly riveting. I had a copy of the album within the week.

What a fucking disappointment that was. Where their live show was blistering, this album (minus a song or two) was downright twee. Helium voiced vocals? (Did he sing like that at the show? I don't know, I couldn't hear him for all the feedback.) Flutes and singing saws? 

It ends up Other Side is not a bad album at all. In fact, it's near brilliant. I suffered from misguided expectations. Apparently the band was pulling apart at the seams during this tour and taking their frustrations out on the audience. On record, they are caught mid-transformation: between the chaotic rock onslaught of their earlier work and the Pet-Sounds-obsessed, oddball orchestration of their near future. Over the years I found myself returning to this album—each time with a better grasp of what I was about to hear, and each time loving it more.