Out Top 10 Mercury Rev songs list looks at the music catalog of a band that achieved critical acclaim thanks to its blend of avant-pop/rock and psychedelic pop/rock. The band was formed in the late ‘80s by guitarist Sean Mackowiak, bassist Dave Fridmann, drummer Jimmy Chambers, flute/horn player Suzanne Thorpe, vocalist David Barker, and vocalist/guitarist Jonathan Donahue. Initially working as a gig promoter in Buffalo, vocalist/guitarist Jonathan Donahue went ahead to earn a spot in The Flaming Lips as the band’s touring guitar technician.
Donahue would soon join The Flaming Lips’ lineup as the band’s lead guitarist on their fourth studio album In a Priest Driven Ambulance. On the other hand, Mercury Rev’s initial bassist Dave Fridmann was featured in the production of the same album. Of course, all these moves were at the expense of Mercury Rev’s steadiness. However, these extra pursuits played quite a significant role in catapulting Mercury Rev to critical acclaim.
Eventually, Mercury Rev managed to make their first release in 1991. Currently, the band boasts eight original studio albums—six of the albums climbed into the UK Albums Chart. Mercury Rev’s most recent release is the 2019 album Bobbie Gentry’s The Delta Sweete Revisited. The album is a song-by-song cover of Bobbie Gentry’s 1968 sophomore studio album The Delta Sweete.
A Quick Review of Mercury Rev’s Original Studio Albums
In 1991, Mercury Rev issued their debut studio album Yerself Is Steam. The album was heavily characterized by a blend of dense psychedelic and experimental influences. Yerself Is Steam was issued through Jungle Records. Other artists who issued records through Jungle Records include Johnny Thunders, Sigue Sigue, King Kurt, Wasted Youth, and The Seeds. “Car Wash Hair,” “Frittering,” and “Chasing a Bee” are some of the most popular songs from Yerself Is Steam.
Mercury Rev returned in 1993 with their sophomore studio album Boces. The album saw the band continue with its blend of experimental and psychedelic pop albeit tinging its music with dreamy melodies. Boces was issued through Beggars Banquet Records in the UK. Other artists who issued records through the label include Gary Numan, The Go-Betweens, The Cult, and The Icicle Works.
Boces became Mercury Rev’s first album to hit the UK Albums Chart. The album made it to the forty-third spot on the chart maintaining its presence for only a week. However, Boces failed to impress in the US mainstream. “Something for Joey,” “Bronx Cheer,” and “Meth of a Rockette’s Kick” are some of the musical gems from Boces. Unfortunately, Boces marked the end of David Baker’s membership with Mercury Rev. Apparently, David cited not to have been happy with the “more melodic” musical direction of the band.
See You on the Other Side, issued in 1995, marked the band’s third studio album. The LP was issued through Beggars Banquet under the production of the band members. Unfortunately, See You on the Other Side failed to impress on the mainstream charts. However, the album is home to some of the popular songs by Mercury Rev including “Young Man’s Stride,” “Everlasting Amen,” and “Empire State (Son House in Excelsis).”
In 1998, Mercury Rev issued their fourth studio album Deserter’s Songs. The album was issued through V2 Records under the production of Jonathan Donahue and Dave Fridmann. Other artists who have issued records through V2 Records include The White Stripes, Moby, Phoenix, and Heather Nova. Deserter’s Songs is considered Mercury Rev’s breakthrough album.
The album showcases Jonathan Donahue’s excellence at penning introspective masterpieces. In the album, we come across an array of emotionally charged songs that played a pivotal role in pushing Deserter’s Songs into mainstream success. Deserter’s Song made it to the twenty-seventh spot on the UK Albums Chart earning gold certification still in the UK. “Holes,” “Goddess on a Hiway,” “Tonite It Shows,” “Opus 40,” and “Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp” are the best Mercury Rev songs from the album.
All Is Dream, issued in 2002, marked Mercury Rev’s fifth studio album. The album was marked the band’s highest-charting release (to date) in the UK Albums Chart. All Is Dream also graced the Billboard Heatseekers Albums Chart climbing to the seventeenth spot. The album also matched the commercial feats of Deserter’s Songs, earning gold certification in the UK.
With the record All Is Dream, Mercury Rev pushed on its grandiose psychedelic rock influences. “The Dark Is Rising,” “Nite and Fog,” “Little Rhymes,” and “You’re My Queen” are some of the most popular songs by Mercury Rev from the band’s fifth studio album All Is Dream.
Mercury Rev expanded the lush soundscapes with their 2005 sixth studio album The Secret Migration tinging it with alternative rock influences. The album went ahead to grace the UK Albums Chart peaking at the sixteenth spot. However, the album failed to impress commercially in comparison to its predecessors. “In A Funny Way,” “Secret for a Song,” and “Across Yer Ocean” are the best Mercury Rev songs from the album.
Snowflake Midnight, issued in 2008, marked Mercury Rev’s seventh studio album. The album made it to position fifty-two on the UK Albums Chart. Once again, Mercury Rev failed to secure commercial success with Snowflake Midnight. “Butterfly’s Wing,” “Dream of a Young Girl as a Flower,” “Snowflake in a Hot World,” and “Senses on Fire” are some of the musical gems from Snowflake Midnight.
Mercury Rev returned in 2015 with their eighth studio album The Light in You. The album was issued through Bella Union, a label founded by former Cocteau Twins members Rob Guthrie and Simon Raymonde. Other artists who have issued records through the label include The Flaming Lips, The Walkmen, Fleet Foxes, The Autumns, and Tim Burgess of The Charlatans.
The Light in You managed to climb to the UK Albums Chart peaking at position thirty-nine. However, the album failed to achieve commercial success. “Coming Up for Air,” “The Queen of Swans,” and “Are You Ready?”
#10- Are You Ready?
Introducing us to the top 10 Mercury Rev songs list is the radiant hit “Are You Ready?” The song is among the most recent original tracks by the band featuring on the album The Light in You. “Are You Ready?” is a bluesy psychedelic rock track easily memorable thanks to its driving rhythm section. The song also features dreamy synth riffs that add extra allure to the song.
However, “Are You Ready?” stands out from most of the tracks listed in our top 10 Mercury Rev songs list due to its delicate orchestral influences. The orchestral influences in this track showcase the band’s willingness to push the boundaries of its musical pursuits. “Are You Ready?” featured a music video directed by Alex Southam. Southam has also worked with other artists including Craig David, Mika, Death Cab for Cutie, Tom Odell, Snakehips & Zayn, and Bring Me the Horizon.
#9- Nite and Fog
“Nite and Fog” is one of the favorite picks by Mercury Rev fans that we couldn’t afford to leave out. The song was issued as a single of the band’s 2001 fifth studio album All Is Dream. “Nite and Fog” is an atmospheric track that features Mercury Rev’s signature heartfelt melodies.
Specifically, the piano melodies deliver a sense of nostalgia in this track. “Nite and Fog” features a music video directed by Luke Losey. Luke Losey has also worked as a live show designer for the bands The Verve, Mott the Hoople, The Libertines, Magazine, and Turin Brakes. “Nite and Fog” was a mainstream success rising to the forty-seventh spot on the UK Singles Chart.
#8- Something for Joey
How loud can Mercury Rev get? Well, that’s a question best answered by our eighth track “Something for Joey.” The song is featured on the band’s first mainstream successful album Boces. “Something for Joey” is one of Mercury Rev’s emblems of the band’s blend of psychedelic rock and noise rock explorations.
However, noise rock influences in this track do not “suffocate” its beautiful psychedelic rock melodies. Another fan-favorite track from the album that comes close to “Something for Joey” is the track “Meth of a Rockette’s Kick.” The song features a music video directed by Jim Tozzi.
#7- Everlasting Arm
“Everlasting Arm” is yet another mesmerizing track by Mercury Rev. The song is featured on the band’s third studio album See You on the Other Side. “Everlasting Arm” features soaring melodies and perfectly blends in with its rich harmonies. The song finds Mercury Rev exploring themes of love through its heartfelt poetic lyrical content. “Everlasting Arm” was the first song by Mercury Rev to enter the UK Singles Chart peaking at number ninety-one.
#6- Chasing a Bee
Ranking sixth on our top 10 Mercury Rev songs is the track “Chasing a Bee.” The song is featured on the band’s debut studio album Yerself Is Steam. Despite not making it to the mainstream charts, Yerself Is Steam was quite a momentous record as showcased by the quality of the track “Chasing a Bee.”
The song features a haunting vocal delivery by Mercury Rev’s long-serving member Jonathan Donahue. However, the major highlight of this impressive track is its spellbinding instrumentation that echoes the band’s psychedelic rock explorations. “Chasing a Bee” features a music video worked on by Jens Jurgensen and Jim Spring.
#5- In a Funny Way
Our fifth pick on takes us to the band’s sixth studio album The Secret Migration, home to the single “In a Funny Way.” The song was issued as the first single of the album The Secret Migration. “In a Funny Way” features a melancholic tone that complements the emotional depth of its lyrics.
The song remains one of the most successful tracks by Mercury Rev on the mainstream charts. “In a Funny Way” made it to the twenty-eighth spot on the UK Singles Chart. However, the song only spent two weeks on the chart.
#4- Opus 40
Without a doubt, Deserter’s Songs (the band’s fourth studio album) is by far the most successful record. The album churned out a number of hits that went ahead to impress the band’s dedicated fans earning Mercury Rev an even greater reputation globally (especially in the UK). While we had quite a huge list of songs from Deserter’s Songs that would have comfortably made it to our top 10 Mercury Rev songs list, only three made it (including “Opus 40,” our fourth track.
“Opus 40” is a musical gem that fittingly pays tribute to New York’s state environmental sculpture of the same name. The song saw Mercury Rev featured drummer Levon Helm of The Band on the drums in this track. “Opus 40” climbed into the UK Singles Chart peaking at position thirty-one. The music video for this track was directed by Anton Corbijn. Anton has also directed music videos by other artists including Depeche Mode, Joseph Arthur, Nirvana, Roxette, Naomi Campbell, and U2.
#3- The Dark is Rising
Ranking third on our top 10 Mercury Rev songs list is the impressive track “The Dark is Rising.” The song is featured on the band’s fifth studio album All Is Dream. “The Dark is Rising” finds Mercury Rev giving us a succulent blend of their haunting melodies and atmospheric psychedelic influences.
The song features anthemic soundscapes that add extra allure to the song’s melody. However, the major takeaway from this home is its perfect arrangement and Jonathan’s heartwarming vocals. “The Dark is Rising” is Mercury Rev’s highest-charting track on the UK Singles Chart where it peaked at number sixteen. The song also spent the most weeks on the charts (three) in comparison to other singles by Mercury Rev.
“Holes” is by far one of the most popular songs by Mercury Rev. The masterpiece is featured on the band’s fourth studio album Deserter’s Songs. Initially, “Holes” was issued in Australia as a single albeit as a limited-edition tour EP which included the band’s cover of Lou Reed’s hit, “Caroline Says Pt. II. The song quickly rose to become among the favorite picks by Mercury Rev devotees.
Unfortunately, “Holes” never made it big in the mainstream charts. However, the song remains one of the most used hits by Mercury Rev in the media. “Holes” was featured in the soundtrack of the animated film Sing 2. Other artists whose songs made it to the soundtrack include U2, Elton John, and Billie Eilish among others.
#1- Goddess on a Hiway
Ranking first on our top 10 Mercury Rev songs list is the mesmerizing hit “Goddess on a Hiway.” The song is featured on the band’s fourth studio album Deserter’s Song. Originally, the song “Goddess on a Hiway” was penned in 1989 during Jonathan’s stint as a guitarist of Mercury Rev’s fellow psychedelic rock contemporaries The Flaming Lips.
The song would eventually become one of the most popular and successful singles by Mercury Rev. “Goddess on a Hiway” made it to the twenty-sixth spot on the UK Singles Chart. This crowned “Goddess on a Hiway” the band’s second highest-charting single alongside “Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp” in the UK mainstream.
“Goddess on a Hiway” features two music videos; the first is directed by James Frost and Alexander Orlando Smith and the second one by Anton Corbijn. Alexander Orlando Smith is best known for his work with Coldplay, Kylie Minogue, Tori Amos, and Manic Street Preachers. On the other hand, James Frost is known for his work with Alabama Shakes, Silversun Pickups, Pearl Jam, and Ok Go among others.
Top 10 Mercury Rev Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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