Deserter's Songs [reissue] - Co-Op
FILTER Grade: 90%
By Nevin Martell on May 18, 2011
The Hudson Valley in upstate New York possesses a strange power that compels people to take long, strange trips. Rip Van Winkle sipped magic moonshine in the Catskills and slept for 20 years; the Merry Pranksters staged East Coast electric Kool-Aid acid tests in Millbrook and left normalcy behind; and Mercury Rev found a hole in the back of the medicine cabinet while living outside Albany, which inspired them to record 1998’s elegantly wasted Deserter’s Songs. By gently swirling together a pinch of Pink Floyd, hints of prescription-strength gospel, far-out folk, svelte psychedelia and the sound of dreams half-remembered, the band created one of the great pre-millennium albums, which has now been reissued with 13 additional demos, remixes and alternate versions. The LP’s songs are built around epic, drawn-out melodies that become irresistible tractor beams, pulling you into the group’s alternate reality. The opener, “Holes,” begins with a gorgeous shimmer of orchestration that slowly builds into a haunting lament. The next two songs, “Tonight It Shows” and “Endlessly,” are equally bewitching hymns that are rich with grandeur without ever becoming pompous. The band strays from this format on the second half of the LP with the stately, marching “Goddess on a Hiway” and the self-explanatory “Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp,” but, thankfully, Deserter’s Songs never stops feeling like the soundtrack for a journey into a far-off world. Buy this ticket and take this ride, because this record will take you way beyond the stretch of Empire State that inspired it.