was born out of the partnership of lead vocalist/guitarist
Blake Smith and bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Mike
Willison, also the band's songwritersand friends
since childhood. Following several early projects
together, Smith headed for Europe, spending a good
deal of time in the U.K. "I got excited by electronica,
and all the great British pop in London," he
remembers. "It was fun to see a band like Blur
straddle a lot of stylesloops and samples in
one song, straight up guitar in the nextand
still sound like themselves."
That dynamic is the cornerstone
of Caviar, whose self-titled debut on Island came
out in late 2000, with drummer Jason Batchko as part
of the line-up. Beyond Windy City roots, Smith and
Batchko shared a mutual appreciation for orchestral
synth-pop rockers New Order--Blake had found Jason
when he was playing for the cover band Power, Corruption,
and Guys. "I thought he was great right away,"
says Smith. "He could do things other drummers
just couldn't. Hes like a cross between a Roland
808 drum machine and Keith Moon."
Allmusic.com called Caviar a "a
glossy, hard-to-resist debut ... Midwestern power
pop that's just as intent on being sexy
radio-friendly glam-inspired tunes." Launch's
review added that the album, "will have you bopping
your head and humming along like a drooling idiot."
Critical acclaim, and music featured on Buffy The
Vampire Slayer notwithstanding, things didn't gel
for Caviar. In a bio from that time, Blake wrote,
"Because we are the first band ever to get a
raw deal from the record industry, we decided it would
be smart to take time off and reflect."
After creative refueling, the bowed
but not broken Caviar made a new album wholly on their
own, driven by a desire to counteract the preponderance
of gloomy music on the airwaves. A kid who related
to certain songs by the Beatles and Kinks as if they
were great children's stories, Blake comments, "Growing
up, I wanted to party, meet girls, and drive around
really fast, not sit in my room and wallow in self-pity."
Smith concentrated on writing until he felt there
was enough good material for an entire record, often
looking to the weather, an abundant commodity in Chicago,
for inspiration. "Hey, a nice day might come
along, and I'd write five tunes that were happy, and
then I wouldnt do anything for the rest of the
month," he explains.
Caviar brought the songs to life
with wild abandon, and the result, which ultimately
became The Thin Mercury Sound, is an exhilarating
collection of fifteen multi-flavored tracks. Smith
informs his work with a torrent of ideas, and then
inextricably weaves lyrical aplomb into his love of
musical heterogeneity. That, along with Caviar's bravura
playing, shines on the self-produced disc, which began
drawing attention on specialty radio shows, leading
to their signing with Aezra .
The Thin Mercury Sound's lead single,
the high-spirited "On The Down Low," is
a "Beck high-fives Weezer train wreck."
Other stand-out tracks include the U2-spiced opener
"Aloha," the Lou Reed-inflected "Clean
Getaway," the Coldplay-meets Echo & The Bunnymen-like
"Lioness," and the lap-top symphony of "Tiny
Cannibal Bites." Another highlight is the soulful
"Hey Let Go," which Smith composed after
hearing a rumor that John Hughes was coming out of
retirement. All of Hughes' hit films, including Ferris
Bueller's Day Off and Sixteen Candles, were filmed
in the Chicago suburbs where Smith grew up, and he
and his friends would rush to see them to spot people
they knew as extras, and places they hung out as locations.
"Hey Let Go" was the song I wrote to submit
for the soundtrack if he ever made another movie,"
Maybe that day will come, and for
now, comparisons to other artists aside, Caviar is
coming into its own in the broader musical universe
with The Thin Mercury Sound. On their Aezra/EMI debut,
more than anyone else, Caviar sound like themselves,
full of adventurous spirit, pumped-up guitars, and