My iPod #444: Mercury Rev – Goddess on a Hiway

I have a vivid memory of watching the music video for this song on the TV, years before I really knew who Mercury Rev were or properly listened to Deserter’s Songs, and thinking that it was one of the most depressing ones I’d seen in a very long time. In it, three members from the band go out camping in a landscape dominated by dull shades of grey while front man Jonathan Donahue mouths the lyrics with a solemn and sad appearance on his face. And at the end of it is assumed that he lets himself drown in the pond whilst the other two members look out at the stranded boat he was once in. I can’t specifically remember how old I was then, but it was a downer to witness at a young age.

It still is at nineteen years of living. But the visuals do accompany the music very well, so I can’t complain. “Goddess” was released as the first single from 1999’s Deserter’s Songs a few months after the album’s release, though the song’s creation goes as far back as 1989 when Donahue was still a member of fellow band The Flaming Lips. The lyrics on that version are basically the same, but recorded very hastily I guess on with very limited resources. But it was on Deserter’s Songs where it got proper treatment like all of the other songs and was recorded finely with a range of instrumentation.

Starting off with a lone piano and bass, “Goddess” follows the dynamic of the ‘quiet verse/loud chorus’. Donahue sings rather softly accompanied by the rhythm section and aforementioned piano before exploding into the chorus where every other instrument bursts into the mix from a whimsical recorder to distorted guitars. The title is played with a bit too which is quite noteworthy. It isn’t until the last verse that the title is actually uttered, but at the beginning the lyric states “I got us on a highway” which… I don’t know why it always strikes me when it gets to that last verse.

It is a haunting listen. One which requires much attention. Great song from a great album.

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Author: Jamie Kyei Manteaw

An English student at Coventry University who spends most days listening to music (old and new) and reading and writing about it, however informal it may be. And studying too, obviously.

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