Mercury Rev: Chasing a Bee
ide eyes glazed, pupils pinpricks in a cardboard camera capturing images so slowly they smear everything into a continuous raspberry ripple swirl of word and vibration. David Baker approaches the microphone unsteadily lost in inner space, a huge man become a wizened slightly wavering silhouette at the centre of a musical maelstrom.
Clinging to the hind legs of the imaginary Bee (“hold on to its leg, before it flies away”) he is glazed over, flittering between stoic intonation and the slippery verge of emotional collapse. Mind spinning inwards, he totters into consciousness intermittently—his vocals double tracked between singing and a spaced out croaky drawl. Baker tripping between disporting in the warm glow of primary colours and shivering alone on some internal lysergic eyrie. The Rev’s epicene rock psychedelia flirts with itself as whining high end feedback melds with a girlishly sweet flute line (2.38) which melts back into the din.
Feedback might just be “a sound created when a transducer such as a microphone or electric guitar picks up sound from a speaker connected to an amplifier and regenerates it back through the amplifier”, but in the right hands it is something undeniably human. I don’t fully understand the concept of noise as beauty or melody and I’ve never in the past really succeeded in explaining to people that the formless thundering blast of sound on “Chasing a Bee” at 3.05 is a thing of beauty. The rivulets of roaring notes slamming like waves against the edges of the song, the salient sound ripping through, out and beyond of Baker’s cries.
Is it something that can be learned? Does the listener need to be aware of abstracts, interpretation, expectation and experimentation to get it? For the seconds that follow this electrical detonation (and again at 5.14) the song splits in two, cracked wide open letting in a storm of bleeding, morphing unmusical tones. Like a rip in a plastic sheet keeping out a gale or a rip in the fabric of reality in some Twilight Zone episode this hole spills a howling, straining sound that is both alien and human.
The greatest album opener ever? Possibly.
By: Scott McKeating
Published on: 2004-09-22