MERCURY REV: Snowflake Midnight [Yep Roc]

God, this is depressing. And no, we’re not talking depressing as in mood or tone, but that a band such as Mercury Rev could release something as wretchedly insipid as Snowflake Midnight. (Even the title causes involuntary nausea.) Forever destined to be looked down upon as the Flaming Lips’ wayward cosmic cousins from the Catskills, this is a band that gave the world the frazzled brilliance of 1991’s Yerself Is Steam, the freewheeling, boundary-breaking psych-pop thrills of 1995’s See You On The Other Side, not to mention the Jack Nitzsche-conducts-choirs-of-angels wonderment of 1998’s Deserter’s Songs. So what happened? Mercury Rev has talked about reinvention and veering away from its comfort zone, which is only to be commended, but the band has really fallen flat on its face here. It’s all just too polite. Guitars have been largely abandoned for interminable washes of insipid synths and vapid, ’90s-style techno-lite beats. It’s as if some third-rate Ibiza-based chillout DJ (or, god forbid, Moby) has been handed the reins and decided to bland them out of existence. There are moments of brilliance and wide-eyed lysergic madness, and frontman Jonathan Donahue remains a Charles Adams character made real, but ultimately, Snowflake Midnight is one long, disheartening comedown. []

—Neil Ferguson