The Mercury Program

From the Vapor of Gasoline

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A post-rock album that doesn't sound like Sonic Youth B-sides. Florida-based the Mercury Program tempt their chin-stroking muses by creating a collection of songs that use the seemingly conventional setup of rock clich├ęs (guitar solos, mumbling vocals, etc.), but they also embrace the more free-form patterns of experimental jazz. The good information is that unlike most post-rock contemporaries, the "feedback squalls = artistic" belief is kept at a minimum. The bad information is that it still rarely succeeds. For example, the track listing reads like a series of in-jokes ("Down on Your Old Lung" is a highlight), the loose structures start to chafe, and the whole experiment feels too much in love with itself to connect with an audience. However, even the most antagonistic of listeners would be hard-pressed to dismiss the hovering interest of the album's title track or the engaging murmur of the finale "Highways Like Veins." It's just that, more often than not, the album sounds like cerebral intentions gone awry. Like most American experimentalists, the hope is that the band tends to hone in on their true musical character somewhere down the line. Because as it stands, From the Vapor of Gasoline comes across like music theory students trying to impress their professors.

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