Album: Mercury Rev

The Secret Migration, V2

This follow-up to 2001's All Is Dream is Mercury Rev's lushest, most exotic album so far, teetering dangerously on the edge of prog-rock preciosity. It continues the band's drift towards ever more grandiose musical confections, but the dark occultism that spiked the sweetness of the previous album has been replaced here by a sort of wonder at the mysteries of nature. It's a pastoral fantasia full of "dragonflies offering you a ride" and spiders' webs glistening with dew in the sunlight "like a necklace hung over limb and branch". In particular, Jonathan Donahue seems entranced by the cycle of the seasons, celebrating in songs like "My Love", "In a Funny Way" and "Vermillion" the "unseen force behind the turning leaves". For fans of the group's earlier, more chaotic albums, it may be a slightly sickly experience: there's no risk that any one of these tracks may develop a life of its own - even Grasshopper's fiery, psychedelic guitar breaks are kept to a minimum, only occasionally surfacing from the welter of keyboard textures. The Rev might be a more reliable prospect these days, but I can't help feeling they've lost some of their excitement, the thrilling sense of risk that infused their earlier incarnations. There are some lovely melodies here, but it's essentially an album aimed firmly at the mainstream.