Hailing from Gainsville, Florida (of all places), The Mercury Program is yet another in a long line of post rock bands that seem to be muddying up the waters lately. With Tortoise and June of 44 and all the side bands that have spawned from those two, as well as everyone else, it's actually starting to get to a point where it's hard to figure out what's decent and what sucks in terms of the genre. Upon first glance at the packaging for From The Vapors Of Gasoline, it would be easy to disregard the group as another pretentious post rock outfit, with the album title inspired by Jean-Michel Basquiat to long-ass song names like "Re-inventing A Challenge For Machines."
Fortunately, though, the group pulls things off pretty well and while the release isn't by any means a classic, it is a solid sophomore effort from the group and shows some promise if they can find some way to distinguish themselves from everyone else. Right now, they work a sort of fine line between instrumentals and tracks with almost whispered vocals while swaying back and forth from mellow progressions with a touch of jazz to moments where they crank up the volume and rock.
The album opens up with "The Sea Is In Here" and after awhile of some strummy guitars and a bassline that feels like it's coiled and ready to strike, it does just that later in the song. The lyrical content in the song equates to about 4 lines worth (as with all songs on the disc that have them) and although they're pretty obtuse given one song, they make a bit more sense when strung together in a line (as they are in the sleeve notes). The aforementioned second track "Re-inventing A Challenge For Machines" feels sort of like a jacked-up Tristeza track with the slightly juiced bass and guitars playing off the thicker drumming and vibrophone.
"Every Particle Of The Atmosphere" shows that the group also has a nice touch with quieter tracks that remain quiet, and with the layered chimes and skittering rhythms and ultra-repetitive bassline, it's the song on the album where the hushed vocals feel the most at home. It's a beautiful, shimmering song, and comes at just the perfect point in the middle of the album. From there, the album works some of the same styles over again, including the soft-to-loud on "Down On Your Old Lung" or the more forward rock track of "Highways Like Veins." While they manage to keep things fairly fresh, there's still sort of a feeling that the group could change things up just a little bit more and create even more dynamics in their sound. So, although it does drag a bit toward the end, it's still a pretty decent release, and I'll be waiting to hear what they do next.