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4.0 out of 5 stars
All Is Dream
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Showing 1-9 of 9 reviews(4 star)show all reviews
There's always been a sort of fantastical edge to Mercury Rev, even in the bleak grandeur of "Deserter's Songs." But "All Is Dream" takes that edge and pushes it, with its swirling music and songs that talk about dreams, vampires, nite and fog, and "floating in the tides of the moon." It's too subdued to be their best work, but it's certainly still good.

"I always dreamed of big crowds/plumes of smoke and high clouds/But dreams don't last for long," Jonathan Donahue sings wistfully at the start of "The Dark is Rising," a plaintive meditation on how reality and dreams differ. A gentle piano melody swells into orchestral strings, before subsiding back into piano and violin.

That sets the tone for the rest of "All Is Dream," with its plaintive, pretty pop that explodes suddenly into orchestral splendor or fast-driving rock. Soft female voices call out, eerie noises sound, and catchy rhythms are tempered with thick layers of strings, synth and otherworldly lyrics. It sounds like the soundtrack to a very good action-fantasy movie.

They do break from type here and there -- "The Distance From Her To Me" is an almost unbearably cute-sounding pop song, and "Tides of the Moon" is a dark, synthy ballad, where Donahue sounds like a friendly ghost narrating a nightmare. "With prickly little thorns/sharp tiny teeth/they're hungry for the threads/hanging from your sleeve..."

"Deserters' Song" is considered the peak of Mercury Rev's career, and "All Is Dream" is not quite the same. It's more fantastical, less epic, less mind-blowing, and it's positively happy beside its sister album. It's also a bit more peaceful, with moments of yearning and fear, but overall more contemplative.

Jonathan Donahue has a rather unmelodious voice, high and a bit weird-sounding. However, it grows on you. Especially when it's paired with the music here -- strings, mellotron, hammond and French horn all spice up the sprawling rock melodies, which would sound rather bleak and underworked otherwise.

The songwriting is one of the things that had definitely changed from "Deserters' Songs." It has that Ye Olde Rocke'n'Rolle sound, a sort of fantasy vibe, with mentions of entombed pharoahs screaming and "the sun's red gown turns to brown." Despite, I might add, the mention of Leonard Cohen, which I don't really understand.

Mercury Rev's "All Is Dream" is an appropriate title. It does sound like a dream -- a long, wandering, dark and strange dream.
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on November 26, 2001
Yes, the Flaming Lips may come to mind when you first pop the cd in but it's primarily because of the squeaky, Wayne Coyne-ish vocals and the proliferation of strings on this release. Musically though, I don't think it's nearly as experimental and it just doesn't flow like The Soft Bulletin. Not knowing what their old stuff is like, I couldn't help but feel like this was some radical departure from what they're used to doing and this was their first stab at this kind of thing. While on their identity quest, they get lost somewhere between 70's prog rock and poppy guitar radio hit. I think it's track 4 that very much reminds me of "Squonk" from Genesis' Trick of The Tail.
That said, I bought it after listening to just the first 2 tracks at a listening station at the record store. It's one of those records where you don't know what to think at first but it sounds really cool and you think there might be a lot hidden under the surface. And there is. Preview a couple tracks; if it sounds like your kind of thing at all, you'll probably like the whole thing.
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on November 25, 2001
I give All Is Dream 4 stars instead of 5 only because I don't think it is quite on the same level as Deserter's Songs. It's a great album but there's just something missing for me. Deserter's Songs had an enchanting quality about it that completely captivated me, All Is Dream just misses that same plateau. It is definitely a worthy follow-up to Deserter's Songs but doesn't quite have the same magical charm. But it is still growing on me even after a couple months of repeated listenings, so who knows, maybe a month or two from now I would give it 5 stars. Maybe my problem is that because I was totally enraptured by Deserter's Songs no matter what they put out next I could only be a little disappointed. However, All Is Dream is a great record and is easily one of the year's best albums. The orchestration on this album is scaled down somewhat, but all the little oddities (such as the musical saw) that create a dream-like musical experience are still in place. For a band 10 years plus into their existence, Mercury Rev have added an impressive 5th piece of work to their much under-appreciated musical catalog.
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on October 27, 2001
For better or worse Jonathan's voice is the most recognizable this side of Thom York's. It will either thrill you to the bone, or irritate you to no end. Either way, Mercury Rev is definitly an aquired-taste band. It's an often over-looked trait of the band, but an important one. When people acknowledge the band's difficult accessablility they too will realize that the individual albums are no more accessable. In essence, if you don't like the album, perhaps you didn't give it time to sink in.
"All is Dream" leaves little middle ground for the listener to stand on. Either you love it or you hate it. Just like the band. And the songs will seem either epic or throw-aways. Going against those notions, it's not so black-and-white for me. Subjectively, "The Dark is Rising" and "Nite and Fog" make it worth the ticket price, and with the strength of the album's concept, make it better than the harolded "Deserter's Songs." True to the title, all of the songs have a certain dream-like quality; mostly light, fluffy, tinkering music sketched in front of artistic orchestration. "Chains" has many of the qualities of a "Deserter's" song, but written better than most of the tracks from the outing. "Lincoln's Eyes" is the strangest, most nightmaric of the album, and is tied with "Little Rhymes" for a 'filler' candidate. But no worries. Case in point, if you like Mercury Rev and "Deserter's Songs," you will like this.
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on September 13, 2001
In the past couple years where we've seen great, atmospheric releases by Goldfrapp, Sigur Ros, Gospeed You Black Emperor!, and Bjork, America's foremost auteurs when it comes to All Things Dreamy, Mercury Rev, come along with a near-masterpiece of their own. Like Yo La Tengo, Mercury Rev have completely evolved from spacey noise-rock to more concentrated, moody, easygoing music, while still sounding as oblique as ever.
It takes a couple listens before All Is Dream eventually grows on you, but there are some songs that leap out at you with the odd familiarity of a new song that you know will live on forever. The majestic 'The Dark Is Rising' begins with an orchestral overture that sounds grand enough to open an old Western before slowing down to just piano and Jonathan's falsetto vocals, then going back to a full orchestra again, making the song sound a lot like Buffalo Springfield's 'Expecting To Fly'. 'Little Rhymes' actually bears a similarity to late Eighties U2, with its thrumming bass line and gentle melody. 'A Drop In Time' is simple, playful melody, so simple, like a song from an old Disney movie, that you think you've heard it before. 'Nite And Fog' is the most upbtempo song on the album, a straightforward, but wistful, memorable rock song, while 'You're My Queen' utilizes a persistent beat reminiscent of the Velvets' 'Waiting For The Man'.
It takes a while longer to become accustomed to songs like 'Lincoln's Eyes' and 'Hercules', but you soon find those two songs to be the strongest, both tunes possessing odd meoldies that build and build to a gentle climax.
All Is Dream wouldn't be a Mercury Rev album without line after line of seemingly impenetrable lyrics: "What explodes like a fractal/pops like a light bulb", "If God moves across the water/the girl moves in other ways", "Psalms and spells/Magic blast/Who cares what they cast"...some lines might mean something only to the band, but they all create an overall mood, typically one of longing and loss. If the words weren't so creatively constructed, the record would sound like a tired cliche. Thankfully that's not the case, and we have instead moments of lyrical genius like "But I was caught, like a fleeting thought, Stuck inside of Leonard Cohen's mind."
Mercury Rev excel at creating a lushly orchestrated mood with just enough freakydeaky moments to catch you offguard. At the end of what is one of the best albums of 2001, there's a line that is as brilliantly enigmatic as anything Syd Barrett wrote that best describes the album, and perhaps the band's worldview: "All is One, All is Mind, all is lost, ALL IS DREAM."
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on September 27, 2001
back with a change in style since deserter's songs, this too is a highly acclaimed album. jonathan's lyrics still stand up with those on deserter's... and with a development in sound, all is dream could only be a success. although not as good as the predecessor, this lp is still a piece of magic. first single, the dark is rising heightens expectations as the first song of the album. full of orchestral violins, jonathan delves into the darker side of the rev,while nite and fog is up there as one of the singles of the year. although it gets a little lost towards then end of the album, with songs like spiders and flies passing without note, this is still a credible album to return with, especially since having to change producer in the middle of recording, and one every fan of quality music should have in their collection.
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on October 20, 2001
after neil young's first 4 or so albums a lot of people thought he had lost that marvellous sense of imagery that had coloured these early works and i for one tend to agree with this point of view.neil went on a more sonic journey.now if neil had continued on his original path would he be travelling the road
that MERCURY REV now explore?interesting thought.
ALL IS DREAM has a hell of a job to accomplish that being following up one of the truly great albums of our time the incredible DESERTERS SONGS.There are some really lovely songs here notably THE DARK IS RISING with its masterful string arrangement,NITE AND FOG,A DROP IN TIME and SPIDERS AND FLIES.
occasionally the album lapses into tweeness but overall REV have succeeded in making a worthy successor to DS.Enjoyable .
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on October 30, 2001
All is Dream by any means is an excellent record, worth buying and a pleasure to listen. This guys had a difficult task, they had to come out with an album that could live to the standards of Deserters Songs, and in my opinion they did it and did right.
They kept most of they trademark sound in practically the whole All is Dream album, they even came out with new classic tunes that after several plays wont leave your head.
Not many bands can or does provide a follow up to a classic record as Mercury Rev did with this one. Do not listen to the radical "I Cant stand Change" fans, enjoy one of the most underated bands in the USA!
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on January 2, 2002
4.25 Stars. Mercury Rev certainly has come a long way since their debut back 1992 (that has mixed results I guess). The noise blasts of old has now been replaced with orchestrations and symphonies. However, All is Dream kind of rocks it up a tad more than Deserter's Songs. Incorporating guitar antics similar to those of Godspeed You Black Emperor works really well with the orchestrations and Johnathon Donahue's vocals. I like this CD better than Deserter's Songs, but not quite as much as Boces. Best tracks are Lincoln's Eyes, You're My Queen, and Spiders and Flies.
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