V2 - 2005 - 44 minutes

An album title that seems to say everything about its genesis. Little has been heard of Mercury Rev since they finished touring 2001's 'All is Dream', and as the seasons and years rolled into one another, so grew the question of just when they'd re-emerge - and with what. Those questions might have gone to the back of your head more often than not - but one blast of the 'Rev's albums would put them at the very front again. Now, finally, we can hear what they were up to. And when 'The Secret Migration' is at its best their time away could not have been spent more wisely or beautifully.

If the eerie sound of 'All is Dream' tempted you to stick white sheets over your speakers, then 'The Secret Migration' feels like there should be flowers growing out of them. Here the paths of love and nature intertwine, the change of heart and seasons giving Mercury Rev their richest album lyrically and some of their greatest moments. In the swirling 'Across Yer Ocean', the urgent 'Vermilion' and the life-affirming 'First Time Mother's Joy (Flying)', Mercury Rev have three songs up there with classics like 'A Sudden Ray of Hope', 'Holes', 'The Funny Bird' and 'Spiders and Flies'.

'The Secret Migration's letdown - and for many this will be its highlight - is that sometimes it's a little too soft and ballad-reliant. The second half of the album is too similar in mood to be the equal of the first, and while it should end on the highest of notes with 'First-Mother's Joy...', it instead peters out with the 90-second 'Down Poured the Heavens'. No doubt these songs will take on more power live but they needed them here too. In short, Mercury Rev should soar, but sometimes seem content to glide. Happy trails for some, what might have been for others.

The great albums always leave you wondering how bands are going to top them. While Mercury Rev could spend another four years wading through the plaudits that will accompany 'The Secret Migration', you'd like to think Jonathan Donohue & Co know that they have even better in them.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: Secret for a Song - Across Yer Ocean - Diamonds - Black Forest (Lorelei) - Vermilion - In the Wilderness - In a Funny Way - My Love - Moving On - The Climbing Rose - Arise - First-Time Mother's Joy (Flying) - Down Poured the Heavens