From The Vapor Of Gasoline
By: Eric G.
I like Slint as much as the next guy, but all these bands that keep churning out Spiderland III and IV need to listen to some Mr. Bungle or Captain Beefheart or The Three Doctors or something. Slint didn’t take itself this seriously and that was the beauty of it. Spiderland was only tongue in cheek, amateurish, cryptic college rock done right. Most of the post-Slint, ‘post-rock’ bands seem to think they are important and ‘experimental.’ June of 44 is just Slint without the sense of humor and has pretty much set the standard for the Slint-imitation handbook, a few pages of which The Mercury Program has definitely peeked at and absorbed.
The Mercury Program jazzes the riffs up a bit, bit it’s still derivative of Spiderland right down to the whispered vocals. The musicianship is almost too good. This is rock and roll; there are supposed to be risks and flubs. This is not to say that The Mercury Program doesn’t ever deliver the goods. “Nazca Lines Of Peru” builds from a muted limbo to a blasting climax of searing guitars. The vibraphones and electric pianos add atmospherics to the repetitive soundscapes. The title track builds similarly to an explosive peak, from which only a sturdy bass line endures.
The song titles get a bit out of hand, though: “Re-inventing A Challenge For Machines”, “Every Particle of The Atmosphere”, “The Vortex East.” The band credits Jean-Michel Basquiat with inspiration for artwork and the album title, the inherent pretentiousness of which is fairly obnoxious. It’s surprising that The Mercury Program hails from Gainesville, Florida because such behavior is usually indicative of a New York City band.
From The Vapor of Gasoline has a very live feel to it. The production is crisp and the playing is expert and energetic. The vocals never punch out of the whispered affectation, which is disappointing and somewhat boring. Thus, the burden is on the music itself, which is competent but just not inspired. If this album had come out five years ago it would, perhaps, seem more vital, but in the wake of the onslaught of homogenized ‘post-rock’ this seems middling at best.