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Yerself is Steam

Raw and swirling and aggressive, sweeping and atmospheric, and punctuated with haunting flutework. ..and this only summarizes “Chasing A Bee”, the first track from “Yerself Is Steam”, Mercury Rev’s major label release. Nowadays the dimensional reference points for the band’s musical universe rest largely on lushly orchestrated, psychedelically-tinged pop songs, but on “Syringe Mouth” and “Coney Island Cyclones”, the tracks following “Chasing A Bee”, the heavily distorted, wildly oscillating drones signaled that Mercury Rev skirted the more chaotic, wall-of-noise spectrum of psychedelia at that point in the band’s career. In addition to the playful interlude “Continous Trucks and Thunders Under A Mother’s Smile”, which phases out in a a heavy burst of modulated distortion, four more fluidly arranged tracks are contained on this release: “Blue and Black”, a piano-driven cut ending in an extended coda featuring a squalling guitar line that sounds like an angry hornet first levitating, then navigating its way toward an intruder; “Sweet Odyssey Of A Cancer Cell At Th’ Center Of Your Heart” , a tympani-driven song containing heavily-phased guitar line which moves in a nearly symphonic progression to a sustained, explosive climax; “Frittering”, a downbeat number which builds accretively from a single acoustic guitar to a heavily-fuzzed drone upon which a pitch-bent lead line is superimposed; and “Very Sleepy Rivers” , a murky, dirge-like, twelve-minute cut built around a soporific bassline, a heavily-distorted guitar drone kept largely to the background, mournful flutework, inarticulate howling interspersed with the lyrical content, and a plucked electric lead that sounds like a horde of trilling insects levitating and descending. Left off of this re-issue is “Car Wash Hair”, included on the original US pressing and one of the first pastoral songs the band were to record, with Suzanne Thorpe’s flute featured in its most prominent role. Jonathan Donahue (who doubled on guitar) and David Baker served as vocalists for this CD, with Baker singing on “Chasing A Bee”, “Syringe Mouth” ,”Blue and Black” and “Very Sleepy Rivers”, and sharing vocal duties with Donahue on “Coney Island Cylones”. Donahue sang on “Sweet Odyssey” and “Frittering”, and had “Car Wash Hair ” been included would have been responsible for that track as well. I picked this up sometime in 2009 to replace my original copy (purchased in November of 1992), as it had been in such heavy rotation anywhere that I had access to a CD player that it eventually became unplayable. I was somewhat disappointed that “Car Wash Hair” had been excluded from the reissue, but otherwise this is in every other way one of the finest pschyedelic releases to have emerged in the ’90’s, and if you’re only familiar with their later material, it’s still worth getting, not only to chart their evolution, but also to ferret out the melodic underpinnings present in their music from the beginning. I can’t recommend this CD enough. Check it out!




Yerself is Steam Review


A mind-blowing psychedelic fantasia, taking listeners through ethereal, placid calm as well as mood-altering textures of raging guitar currents . "Frittering" is mesmerizingly beautiful, "Chasing a Bee" has some of the wildest guitar ever committed to tape, and "Sweet Odyssey of a Cancer Cell. .." is so intricately imposed and symphonic to belong more to the genre of classical music than rock n’ roll. Also don’t miss the haunting "Blue and Black" and the near-hit "Car Wash Hair", buried at the end of the album. One of the best guitar albums in my opinion and one of the best albums ever, period. -Read Reviews-

After joining and leaving The Flaming Lips after just one album (the tremendous "In A Priest Driven Ambulance"), Nathan Donoghue formed one of the other best bands of the 1990s, Mercury Rev. Their debut, Yerself Is Steam isn’t as consistent as the Lips’ best albums, but the highlights are superb, including "Chasing The Bee" and "Car Wash Hair". The first version I ordered didn’t contain the latter track, so be careful when selecting a version. You don’t want to miss out on the album’s undisputed highlight.

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