By Christopher Nosnibor
Glenn Mercer is, of course, best known as the front man of The Feelies, and boasts an impressive back catalogue to say the least, and a career spanning (give or take a few months) my entire life (there’s a clue there). The Feelies never really sounded like anyone else, although plenty of others would want to sound like The Feelies, and a legacy based on influence is always going to be cooler, at least artistically, than one based on sales.
Having eschewed solo releases for decades, Incidental Hum is Mercer’s second official solo album, following 2007’s Wheels In Motion. As the press release puts it, it’s more about eerie moods than crazy rhythms (ahem). The album is unusually organised, with a dozen original tracks appended by a trio of cover versions, which in themselves are quite telling with regards to the album’s mood and references, while representing Mercer’s attempt to “evoke an atmosphere that would, in turn, suggest images of a more specific location.” Given the ambient nature of the music, a Brian Eno cover is not all that surprising, though Mercer chose to tackle one of Eno’s classic pop-rock tracks, “Here Come The Warm Jets.”
Yet despite what the title and accompanying literature suggests, this is not an ambient work, at least in the obvious sense. There are clear and definite chords, patterns, rhythms which formulate the tracks, and while they’re not ‘songs’ (being all instrumental), there are distinct structures and forms.
‘Chayenne’ actually sounds not unlike Inspiral Carpets’ ‘This Is How It Feels,’ only propelled by a Roland TR606. Elsewhere, ‘Mobile’ rocks an old-school rock vibe. ‘Hermosa’ is a standout, with its spaghetti western / Latin crossover, and the myriad styles and forms Mercer fuses together across the course of the album make for a flavoursome and really quite inspired cocktail which warrants a place closer to the foreground than being relegated to mere incidental background noise.
Incidental Hum is released by Bar/None Records