Band: The Mercury Tree
Band Website: www.mercurytree.net
Label: Too Cool For One Records
Release Date: 2012
I’m quite encouraged by the number of younger bands who are incorporating a strong progressive rock sensibility to their music. Such is The Mercury Tree out of Portland Oregon. What started as a studio project spearheaded by Ben Spees back in 2004 has come to be a trio whose influences include the likes of Pink Floyd, King Crimson, XTC, The Flaming Lips, Radiohead, Yes and plenty more. Since the beginning members have come and gone but the core is currently made up of Spees (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Alan Johnson (bass) and Connor Reilly (drums). Pterodactyls is the band’s second full length CD and follows up on their first disc of 2007 and an EP from 2010.
The nine-tracks on Pterodactyls deliver 43-minutes of modern Alt-Prog with plenty of classic prog reference points. Tunes clock in as short as 3:31 or as long as 7:15 and the disc’s opener “Hatchlings” [6:44] is a barnstormer; opening with a neat guitar riff and drums cascading in odd-time signatures. The tune seems to start and stop a few times before displaying a warm and pleasant harmonious chorus line. In between the great vocals are all kinds of musical gymnastics. It’s a busy track with repeated segments offering lots of instrumental time. At the 2:30-mark the whole tune changes musical direction morphing into a loping syncopated steamroller vibe growing in intensity with keyboards coming to the fore before ultimately climaxing into another change in direction at about the 5:00 mark. Here the guitar comes back into the limelight, hammering off some great repetitive riffs while the keyboards provide a great string backdrop until it all gets too intense and just stops. These compositions are moody and atmospheric offering no end of musical twists and turns. But while the tunes are constantly moving from one musical segment to something very different all driving the songs forward there is also a great sense of melody that pervades the disc, so it’s not just some math-rock exercise. It’s because of the musicality, the great harmonies and the melodic hooks that I think The Mercury Tree really have something good here.
As I said at the beginning, this is a young band, who has embraced their influences. What’s so neat is that I can easily see younger music fans really getting into The Mercury Tree without having any knowledge of their classic prog influences and still really digging the band’s sound simply because it comes across as so modern and new. That said fans of bands such as Beardfish or Gazpacho will find much to appreciate here. Recommended for prog fans of all stripes.