POP MUSIC REVIEW : New York’s Mercury Rev Plays in Pumpkins’ Patch
If Billy Corgan makes good on his promise to remove Smashing Pumpkins from the guitar-rock mode that has put them at the top of the alternative-rock heap, there’s a Pumpkins-in-waiting all lined up.
Mercury Rev, a group from Upstate New York, has been around for more than five years and has released three albums, all without generating the kind of music-scene buzz that usually ushers an act into the spotlight. But the band’s show at the Whisky on Wednesday had the same mix of catchiness and clamor that carried the Pumpkins to prominence.
The modulated, jazz-pop-rock experimentation that marks its current album, “See You on the Other Side,” gave way on stage to a grand, aggressive psychedelia, with the five musicians’ anarchic impulses tearing open the song structures to attain a realm of free-form sonic splendor. At the end, both guitarists were on the floor, hammering at strings and pedals to design a swirling, battering mosaic from their instruments’ screams of protest.
But Mercury Rev also has flutist Suzanne Thorpe pouring a buoyant, burbling melodic current into the mix, and an ear for pop melodies and hooks that manifests itself in such songs as “Young Man’s Stride,” which sounds like a post-punk Mose Allison. Singer-guitarist Jonathan Donahue projects both a brattiness and a vulnerability, along with the firmness and confidence to keep things from spinning out of control.