Variety Lights – Central Flow
Though they’ve continued to dazzle throughout the last two decades, Mercury Rev’s identity splintered the day they parted ways with original vocalist David Baker. Yerself Is Steam and Boces were marvellously noisy, rough-edged wonders, a galaxy away from the elfin dramatics that followed his acrimonious departure. Since then, Baker’s been quiet: one album under the name of Shady, then eighteen years lying low off-radar. Variety Lights is his reintroduction, and it’s as thornily inventive as might be expected.
Making no concessions to accessibility, Starlit provides a sprawling, centreless opener, mixing abrasive electronic judders with spacey drones. Establishment switches track with string melodies that carry hints of TV on the Radio, while elsewhere, Silent Too Long (one of the album’s catchier numbers) marries fuzzy guitar and airport-tannoy synthesisers to hypnotic effect. Not every track is a complete success, but, importantly, neither is any short on intrigue, making this a wholly welcome return.