It’s been seven years since Mercury Rev’s last studio album, and it’s been seventeen since the release of Deserter’s Songs. The latter figure is the one that will probably mean the most to the public at large: after all, in the minds of many, that record represents the bands’ work at its very best, and in the intervening years the group have been largely dismissed on a broader scale.
It’s hard to see The Light In You as anything but an attempt to ape the successes of the past, then. It’s a very deliberate callback to Deserter’s Songs that largely ignores the breathtaking experimentation of the truly great All Is Dream in order to favour the chamber pop polish of their best-selling record. Tracks like bombastic opener The Queen Of Swans or the brazen Autumn’s In the Air throw subtlety and experimentation out of the door, choosing instead to beat the audience into sonic submission.
It’s a gambit that has worked in the past, but on The Light In You it comes to feel stale. Emotional Free Fall, for example, a track layered in synthesized voices and simpering flute work, feels ready-made to score the final scene of a schmaltzy rom-com, and lacks the sincerity of the band’s work of yesteryear. Even a track like Sunflower, which begins with a genuinely interesting audio collage, soon succumbs to the kind of saccharine one-note simplicity that dogs the rest of the record.
To say The Light In You lacks diversity is an understatement. It’s a sustained note of joy, but one that quite quickly begins to irritate: there’s only so much synthetic string work one human can take, after all. It’s a shame, given how strong the band’s work has been in the past, that now seven years of silence has been broken, this is what it has been broken by.