“Number two has got me confused, hope I’ll always be numbers one and three…” – well it’s actually number 63 in my top 100 songs list for “Carwash Hair” by Mercury Rev.
A chameleonic band through the years that unexpectedly gained fairly wide popularity in the late 90s, it’s the off kilter beauty of earlier Mercury Rev that continues to chime most readily with me, none more so than early single “Car Wash Hair”, from 1991. A sprawling, beguiling psych ditty, “Car Wash Hair” does indeed delightfully wash over you as its mesmerisingly laidback melodies and charming lyrics evoke endless adolescent summers. “Car Wash Hair” was oddly not originally included on 1991 debut album “Yerself Is Steam” where it would have fitted in perfectly alongside LP centrepieces “Chasing A Bee” and “Frittering”, an equally magical tune also very close to being my favourite Mercury Rev track.
Second album “Boces” was released in 1993 to a slightly underwhelming reception, despite it ambitiously developing on their debut to create a truly unique album that still stands apart today. After maverick vocalist David Baker left the band, third LP “See You On The Other Side” sneaked out in 1995 to general shrugged shoulders, a puzzling reaction to what I consider the best Mercury Rev album. Pointing the way forward to their subsequent lighter work while still rocking out, I really loved “See You On The Other Side” when released and still do; seeing them supporting Pavement at Manchester Student Union around this time was also a rather great double bill.
In the meantime, Mercury Rev’s collaboration with the Chemical Brothers on the fantastic 1997 song “The Private Psychedelic Reel” helped to build their profile once more – and 1998’s “Deserter’s Songs” album was subject to some modest pre-release hype. More luscious and traditional than anything Mercury Rev had recorded before, the record was particularly successful in the UK and was voted album of the year for 1998 by NME. 2001’s “All Is Dream” was a pretty solid follow-up but trod much the same ground as “Deserter’s Songs”, understandably so for a band that had waited years for success. I stopped paying much attention after 2005’s underwhelming “The Secret Migration” but the first four Mercury Rev albums are all terrific in their own hugely distinct ways, a pretty impressive feat.
VIDEOS AND OTHER STUFF
- “Car Wash Hair” video on YouTube
- Simon Reynolds live review of Mercury Rev from Melody Maker, June 1991
- Other great Mercury Rev songs include: Frittering, Chasing A Bee, Meth of A Rockette’s Kick, Bronx Cheer, Empire State (Son House In Excelsis), Young Man’s Stride, Sudden Ray Of Hope, Holes, Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp
- “Car Wash Hair” is featured on my B100 Spotify playlist
- Also featured on my 379: Indie J to N Spotify playlist
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