Mercury Rev : Cambridge Junction

Until the end of the summer anyway, be grateful we can dream on...

In the week that MR mainman Jonathan Donahue’s one-time bandmates The Flaming Lips unleashed their latest masterpiece, it’s easy to forget that this time last year all the salivating was being done over ‘All Is Dream’, the Rev‘s excellent follow-up to their own NME Album Of The Year, ‘Deserter’s Songs’.

But a big bowl of critical acclaim does not, unfortunately, pay those major label bills and this summer they’ve been virtually everywhere by way of reminder, dragging their mystical musings through the UK’s festival fields and, occasionally, into various indoor venues like this one.

Thankfully, their extended time together has turned Mercury Rev into a snarling beast of a rock band, their dense psychedelia underpinned with an endearing fragility which prevents them from becoming too pompous.

It’s a fine balancing act, but strident new single ‘Little Rhymes’ (at least twice as fast as the recorded version), the crashing piano flourishes of ‘Chains’ and a spooky ‘Lincoln’s Eyes’ bring a huge grin to the face of Donahue, his wide-eyed wonderment indicating that he still can’t believe he’s pulling this off. Then the band crash into a version of old favourite ‘Frittering’ that is so effortlessly epic you start to wonder who ever doubted them in the first place.

We’ve been treated to a long, strange journey through Donahue’s astonishingly vivid imagination, and the invitation into his secret world remains firmly open. Until the end of the summer anyway, be grateful we can dream on.

Alan Woodhouse