As far as I’m concerned, Mercury Falling is Sting’s last gasp of respectability. It feels somewhat like a slide into irrelevancy, largely in the way that Sting’s casting around for different styles – there’s some of the slick dance pop of Ten Summoner’s Tales, some dabbling in country, a nautical ballad that could have fitted onto The Soul Cages, and so on. The result is an inconsistent grab bag of styles; Mercury Falling has moments where it’s very strong, but it’s easily less coherent than the albums that preceded it.
Mercury Falling gets off to a great start with ‘The Hounds of Winter’ and ‘I Hung My Head’, the former has a hint of psychedelia with its swirling strings, while the latter is a dark tale of murder that Johnny Cash later covered. The grower is ‘I Was Bought To My Senses’, a slow burning gospel song which takes forever to deliver the rewarding chorus, while the dance pop songs like ‘You Still Touch Me’ and ‘All Four Seasons’ sound better when there’s not a whole album of them to wade through. But some of Mercury Falling is disagreeable; ‘Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot’ is a forced self-help anthem, while the country trappings of ‘I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying’ and ‘Lithium Sunset’ don’t suit Sting. It was probably inevitable that Sting would break into French one day, but the results on ‘La Belle Dame Sans Regrets’ still aren’t pretty.
If you enjoyed Sting’s previous albums, it’s worth checking in on the best songs from Mercury Falling. But after hearing 1999’s Brand New Day, and hearing rumours of lutes, Sacred Love, and Christmas albums in his subsequent solo career, this is where I get off the bus.