The Mercury Program – From the Vapor of Gasoline

The Mercury Program
From the Vapor of Gasoline

The way instrumental bands are becoming popular these days almost lends me faith in the whole belief that rock and roll is, indeed, not actually dead and that its fans are not completely brainless radio drones. Because, in fact, for every rip-off hack artist, there seems to be another amazingly talented band out there trying new things. The Mercury Program is definitely trying new things, tying in jazz and rock with complex time changes, intricate song structures and heavy rhythm to create something that’s fairly unique.
Primarily instrumental, The Mercury Program rides the gambit from instrumental prog rock ala Tortoise to more indie-based rock with soft and sincere vocals. Primarily, though, the band sticks with the complex instrumentals, tossing out jazzy rhythms, multiple complex guitars and even keyboards. Think Tristeza jamming with Pele and you have an idea, or perhaps Mogwai on way too much caffeine.
“The Sea in Here” sets the tone for this entire album, starting off with a soft but steady and jazzy beat, some softly plucked guitar and heavy bass. The electric guitar that kicks in totally reminds me of Trans Am or similar instrumental artists. Oh, and this one has vocals, sung soft, almost as an afterthought. “Re-inventing a Challenge for Machines” reminds me a bit more of the rock-based Pele instrumentals, just louder and more powerful and with more of a math-rock structure. “Leaving Capitol City for Good” is probably my favorite track, driven by the drums and combining vibraphone in for an almost droney song, some vocals whispered here and there. It’s pretty and so fluid. “Every Particle of the Atmosphere” is a more mellow, droning song, somewhat repetitious but in a good way, with more of those soft vocals. The title track starts off slow and droning but explodes, with loud and driving guitar and powerful drums before finally slowing down to almost nothing again. “Fastest Way Through the South” reminds me most of the more melodic Tristeza-like instrumentals. “Down on Your Old Lung” is extremely pretty, with the vibraphone and softly plucked guitars. After a few slower songs, “Highways Like Veins” finishes things off like the album started, faster and jazzier, with that chiming vibraphone and some driving guitar, at once both powerful and beautiful.
First, let me say the artwork for this album is just that: art. Second, this Gainesville, Fla. band apparently has an amazing live show. To reproduce the solidity and maturity of this album live would have to take an extremely talented band. Fans of jazz and rock alike will go for this album. Combining the best of both worlds with some complex, intricate and powerful guitar-driven rock songs, The Mercury Program are reinventing the genre.