Mercury Rev once set the world afire with its chaotically cosmic psychedelia; now it grandiosely lulls it to sleep. Growing ever more sane, content, and financially stable since its 1998 commercial breakthrough, Deserter's Songs, Mercury Rev has continued to reiterate the widescreen sentimentality of that album with 2001's All Is Dream and now The Secret Migration. This is Mercury Rev's most cheerful, conservative album, and therefore its most depressing to fans of mind-scorching early classics like Yerself Is Steam and Boces. Most of Migration's 13 tracks are elegantly conceived and lushly orchestrated, but thoroughly bland. The plodding yet bombastic rock of "Secret for a Song" sets the template, conjuring mild euphoria tempered with an undertow of melancholy -- like almost every song Mercury Rev's recorded since '98. This upstate New York band's decline is all the more sad for how stratospherically it once soared. Its flame's become an ember.
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