The Prayer Chain always had a grasp on the sound of the decade that was the 1990s. The band embraced its inner grunge, and succeeded in creating some of the best alternative rock in the CCM industry this side of Dinosaur Jr. But The Prayer Chain was never satisfied with playing it straight, and Mercury is a testament to the band’s pursuit of interesting musical landscapes that swoop, swoon and crawl over “bendy lines” (to borrow a phrase from the song of the same name).
Mercury is a stunning record. There are moments of beauty and gritty realism. The guitars sometimes spark with noise, other times gently carry the listener along. And the jungle rhythms that made Shawl such a great record to listen to two years prior show up again. The opener “Humb” perfectly sets the stage, and if you don’t like it, well, you probably won’t like the rest of the record. It’s a meandering, feedback droned beauty, with dissonant drumming and what sounds like sitar, with a sparse vocal track. The record really gets going on the next track, “Waterdogs,” which is a great rocking song with lush harmony and gritty, noisy guitar. I’ve always been partial to “Creole,” but it’s “Sky High” and “Sun Stoned” that really do it for me, a pair of tracks that stretch beyond eight-minutes apiece that are akin to musical adventures in lost lands. Or something like that. And I haven’t even mentioned the title track, a lovely, lean song that sets up the haunting “Shiver,” which leads into the beautiful slowed-to-a-crawl “Manta Rae.”
I could go on. This is an absolutely awesome record would I could gush about for another 500 words. This record that, to me, always symbolizes everything good about The Prayer Chain. No offence to Shawl, though, which I absolutely loved and played to death when it came out. But man, Mercury is just so darn adventurous. And if you haven’t heard it, what are you waiting for?
Sky High (9:00)
Manta Rae (3:18)
Bendy Line (5:13)
Sun Stoned (8:39)