The Upshot: Feelies mainman serves up solo home instros for maximum garage crunch, psychedelic lushness, atmospheric ambiance and spaghetti western balladry.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Since the Feelies rarely tour and don’t give extensive interviews detailing their lives outside the band, we’ve always wondered what bandleader Glenn Mercer does on his days off. Incidental Hum may be the answer. A collection of home-recorded instrumentals, the record finds the Feelies singer/guitarist at his most relaxed and playful, unmindful of the jangle rock sound for which he’s best known and exploring his options. The first five songs alone encompass atmospheric ambiance (“Hana”), heartland twang (“Cheyenne”), garage crunch (“Mobile”), spaghetti western balladry (“Yuma”) and lush psychedelia (“Laramie”) – “Winslow” even abandons his beloved guitars entirely for a plush keyboard melody. These aren’t frameworks for wanking, either – a rumbling tune like the Duane Eddy-meets-Morricone “Hermosa” or clanging floater like “Kara Sea” are all about riffs, not solos.
Indicative of Mercer’s vision here, an eclectic trio of covers closes the record. A synth-happy version of Brian Eno’s “Here Come the Warm Jets” and an electronic glide through Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone From the Sun” reveal more through Mercer’s unconventional arrangements than through choice of tunes. But a take on the Judy Garland/Harold Arlen classic “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” comes as a surprise on both fronts – the standard drifts on a sea of synths, acoustic guitars, sleigh bells and E-bow, as lovely as any version employing vox.
Modestly presented but expertly crafted, Incidental Hum does exactly what a solo album from a well-respected bandleader is supposed to do: show off a different side of the artist’s talent and provide plenty of entertainment in the bargain.
DOWNLOAD: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “Hermosa,” “Laramie”