The most remarkable thing about Incidental Hum, the new album from Glenn Mercer of The Feelies, out now on Bar/None Records, is how much the music doesn't recall The Feelies at all. Some of you might read that as an ominous warning, but it's really mroe of a bit of praise to what a versatile musician Mercer is.
As the title might have you believe, Incidental Hum is incidental music tailor-made for the film that might be running in your mind. Like the best albums from a past where this sort of risk-taking was encouraged among musicians, the cuts on the record exude a warmth and grace that's sorely lacking in a lot of what passes for indie these days. "Cheyenne" drips with attitude, while "Mobile" adds in an organ-swirl to great effect. If "Laramie" lets Mercer stretch out a bit on the axe, then "Moss Point" allows him to pull a Fripp and fire off some lines of guitar noise that are perhaps not the sort of thing you'd hear on many Feelies albums.
If the gentle "Winslow" nearly approaches the sort of rhythm that his old band were known for in spots, then it's up to the 3 expertly-chosen covers on this album to give Incidental Hum its more memorable closing moments. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" unfurls like a lullaby, while "Here Come The Warm Jets" has a hook that made me think of Yo La Tengo more than it did composer Eno. Incidental Hum ends with a brave version of "Third Stone from The Sun" by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. It takes a certain degree of bravado to attempt any Hendrix cover if you're a guitarist and Mercer, no longer just that guy in The Feelies, is more than capable of pulling this off. Focusing on the rhythmic hook of the tune instead of Jimi's axe flashes of fire, Mercer recasts the rock classic as a throbbing theme from some unmade sci-fi film.
Most of what's on Incidental Hum will please musicians and fans of Mercer's talents, and probably surprise any casual Feelies fans. This is an album meant to soundtrack something. Let yourself slip into Mercer's soundscapes and discover an altogether new aspect of this guy's musicianship.
Incidental Hum by Glenn Mercer is out now on Bar/None Records.