Their debut album Yerself Is Steam (1991) flopped in the US following Rough Trade’s collapse and didn’t hint at later commercial successes like Deserter’s Songs. Rather, it was a folie de grandeur, epitomised by the sprawling Very Sleepy Rivers.
Nevertheless, the album created a snowball of press acclaim in the UK and with only a handful of support gigs under their belt, Mercury Rev suddenly found themselves opening for My Bloody Valentine and Bob Dylan.
Stories began filtering through about their self-destructive behaviour, with Donahue banned from one airline for trying to remove Mackiowiak’s eye with a spoon! Another minor crisis ensued with Fridmann’s disposal of the band’s entire advance for their Carwash Hair single on a holiday for his mother in Bermuda – without telling anyone.
David Baker left after their second album, Boces (1993), citing musical and personal disputes. With his departure, the thematically darker and musically experimental features of the band began to disappear.
The band’s first post-Baker album, See You on the Other Side (1995) contained a variety of styles, including a sprawling psychedelic opening track and noise rock numbers like Young Man’s Stride, but also more melodic songs, such as Sudden Ray of Hope.
The same year the group also recorded and released the album Paralyzed Mind Of The Archangel Void under the moniker “Harmony Rockets”. This album features a single forty-minute track of mostly instrumental psychedelic improvised music.
The 1998 release of the acclaimed Deserter’s Songs made Mercury Rev unexpected pop stars. In the UK, NME made it their Album of the Year.
All Is Dream was issued in 2001 and included The Dark is Rising, which reached #16 in the UK Singles Chart.
The Secret Migration was released in January 2005, followed up in 2006 by a compilation album, The Essential Mercury Rev: Stillness Breathes 1991-2006 and the film soundtrack album Hello Blackbird. The band released a pair of albums in September 2008: Snowflake Midnight, and a free MP3 album of instrumentals, Strange Attractor.
The Light in You (2015) – their first studio album in seven years – was released through Bella Union.
Sean ‘Grasshopper’ Mackiowiak