Review Summary: The bastard love child of Sigur Ros and the Klaxons? Close, but not quite.
The Mercy Arms
deserve to be hit. Not hard perhaps, but firmly. After becoming one of the most hyped bands on the Sydney indie circuit, they decided to release their debut in the shadow Van She’s
. Which is a pity, because Mercy Arms
is such a dreadfully good record.
As first tracks so often do, Down Here, So Long
sets the tone for the album, combining the two elements that make the Mercy Arms
so deliciously good - their love for delicate and enveloping ‘room of echoes’ sounds together with the oh-so-fashionable and contemporary British dance-pop sounds. Reverb laden, tremolo-picked guitar pearls wind their way around the bands seductive indie-dance drum thumps while vocalist Thom Moore young voice croons among the best of them. Widening as it progresses, with a pulsing beat of steady drums and breaking into anthemic cries of ‘wooahhohoh’, it’s a wonderful opening that so brilliantly captures the sounds of the Mercy Arms
It’s telling perhaps that band member Kirin Callinan credited not only for ‘guitar’, but ‘noise’, with airy walls of dreamy-pop saturating Mercy Arms
with ambience a la My Bloody Valentine
, most tellingly on tracks like Footsteps
. Never forgetting however, their debt to their more dancy influences, Shine A Light
is a throwback to the fading era when The Killers
and The Arctic Monkeys
reigned over the airwaves, even throwing in a rockabilly/jazz riff, a creepy spoken word verse and a barrage of ‘Hoo-Haa-Hoo-Haha’ chanting just because… well… they can.
And this is perhaps what makes Mercy Arms
so successful. It’s almost easy to catalog the sounds which make an appearance here, with its Attitude
dripping with the vogue of British dance-pop, it’s quality
drawing from American shoegaze rock and an atmosphere
that revels among continental post-rock. It’d then perhaps be tempting to characterize the band as a sort of bastard love child of Sigur Ros
and the Klaxons
, but doing this would only be an exercise in ignoring the rich Sydney indie scene from which the Mercy Arms were born from. While the Mercy Arms revolve among the orbit of bands like Ghostwood
, they epitomize the ‘pretty’, ‘atmospheric’ strain of the Sydney scene (See, I described them for you, don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging dear non-Australians), unlike their contemporaries Van She
, who represent the more radio friendly electro-pop renaissance which Sydney has so readably embraced.
Geographical music lessons aside, although the Mercy Arms
safely claim their crown at the forefront of a expanding but marginalized music scene, the album nevertheless mediates within a safe distance of all their disparate but distinctive sounds, never stretching its wings to hit dizzying highs, instead comfortable and safe within their subtle disco-ball lit cubby hole. Certainly, there’s dynamism here, but it’s a constrained one, and even in its most ‘extreme’ moments of branching out (and Shine A Light
is just that), nothing is too
unexpected or chillingly original.
Nevertheless, Mercy Arms
is much more than simply a ‘promising’ debut. It’s a damn good debut. Executed with skill and finesse, its falls down only because it the Mercy Arms
know very well they’ve stumbled onto something a gem of a sound, and are a little hesitant to let go of it sometimes. But when what you’ve got is so pretty, why let go?