The Mercury Program – Chez Viking
Record Label: Lovitt Records
Release Date: November 24, 2009
The Mercury Program made influential instrumental music before anyone even knew that it would become influential. Then they stopped. (I blame Maserati.) And after yawning into old age for years and years and a few more years, the weird grandpas of The Mercury Program awoke from their afternoon naps to release an album 16 minutes shorter than their last full-length (2002’s A Data Learn the Language.) And it’s like, “What, did the New York Times crossword stop interesting you fogeys?” For more than one reason, Chez Vikingshould suck like I suck at writing introductory paragraphs. It should reek of staleness and vibraphone monotony. Chez Viking should be the Chinese Democracy for that cute barista that never showers – you know, the one you’ll never, ever talk to. But for every negative thing that I want to write – and hoped to write! I’m funnier when I’m mad! – I can’t. Chez Viking rules and there’s simply nothing we can do about it.
The success of Chez Viking lies in The Mercury Program’s ability to create soothing music with ambition. The synthesized beeping of “Chez Viking” or the light guitar tones of “Backseat Blackout” walk a line between boredom and intricacy that seems razor thin. Yet the band always finds some way to keep the listener at maximum involvement. At times this is due to David Lebleu’s inventive drumming (“The Church of Cause and Effect”). But more correctly, the excitement comes when each member’s part meshes into a song that’s not too much of anything in particular. Artful subtlety is the true calling card of Chez Viking. And for once, we don’t have to listen to a 43-minute Mono song for our fix.
Although I jab at the lapse between albums, there are songs on Chez Viking that simply wouldn’t have been possible without such a sabbatical. “Departed/Arrived” appears succinct at first glance, but it’s actually a rabbit hole of elements. One moment the pedaled guitar of Tom Reno evolves into a slithering snake, if only to be overtaken by the entrancing vibraphone of (awesomely named) Whit Travisano. All this sunshiney goodness needs but 4-minutes to reduce us to weeping babies. Hell, a band half this good could make a hit using only this song’s shoegaze remnants. And to be honest I feel a bit naughty writing such a concise statement on something that took so long to make. I ultimately don’t care though, but only because I’d rather be listening to this record than writing about it. That should say more than my ridiculous metaphors and stupid mumbo jumbo ever could.
Recommended If You Like: Maserati, Followed By Ghosts, glassware, Kyte sans vocals, igloos