Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Dashboard Melted But We Still Have The Radio

Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Epic Records, 2007

Isaac Brock is a complete maniac. What other man in the world of indie rock would have the audacity to just call up legendary Smiths guitarist, Johnny Marr, and ask him to help write his band's new album? Crazy a ploy/gimmick as it sounds; Brock has made one of the smartest moves of his career in enlisting Marr to join the band. This album contains some of the most abrasive and most accessible songs in Modest Mouse's discography. Aside from the second single, "Missed the Boat," there's not a single track on the album that sounds like any of Marr's work with that other band.

Together the two indie rock visionaries have crafted, as Brock calls it, a "nautical balalaika carnival romp." We Were Dead is an underwater album in the vein of Ween's The Mollusk. Granted, in terms of composition, the two albums sound nothing alike, but both sound like something you'd hear on a cruise ride on a glass submarine, only Modest Mouse's sounds like it's taking the submarine equivalent of the Titanic on a trip through the arctic. I suppose the comparison is kind of irrelevant, but it's the only other nautically-themed record I could think of off the top of my head.

The album kicks off with the rollicking "March Into the Sea," with Brock unleashing his famous bark against a stomping beat supplied by always impressive Jeremiah Green, breaking violently through the quiet squeeze-box organ intro. The first single, "Dashboard," also holds up nicely with an extremely danceable beat, accompanied by Marr's distinct talent for melody. As a first single, it's a perfect follow-up to the band's work on 2004's Good News for People Who Love Bad News, showcasing a familiar sound and infusing it with an overall idea of what the album sounds like. The album is full of tracks that traverse this line. "Fly Trapped in a Jar" and "Florida" are great old-school, quirky freakouts centered around the band's jagged guitarwork and Brock's trademark vocal style. On the other hand, slower-going tunes like "Parting of the Sensory" and "Fire it Up" are both slower, quieter, and more reminiscent of the Mouse's more recent work.

The real standout of the album, however, is the epic "Spitting Venom." The song takes a Decemberists-esque acoustic guitar riff that almost sounds like Brock just fucking around. Something that might have been a 30 second interlude on the band's last album. While you're trying to figure it out, at the 1:30 mark, the whole band suddenly barges into the frame, like they're ambushing Brock, who thinks he's doing a simple acoustic tune. Luckily for everyone, he decides to go along with it. The song continues to run in cycles like this, slowing down, and then picking back up in full force, culminating in a 3 part harmony as the horn section wails away in the background.

Modest Mouse are, if anything, consistent. With the exception of Good News, if you like one song on the album, it's likely you'll like the rest. The nice thing about We Were Dead, is that it throws some caution to that formula. However, it's not quite enough to supply the variety that the band is really capable. Fortunately, with this album, the songs are solid enough, that it's easy not to mind listening to that same structure for 14 straight tracks. (3.9/5 Stars)
Key Tracks: "March Into the Sea", "Dashboard", "Spitting Venom", "Invisible"
More Along These Lines: The Arcade Fire - Funeral, Man Man - Six Demon Bag, The Pixies - Trompe le Monde
Download The Album In This Free Link I've Provided For Your Broke Ass:
Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

Much like with yesterday's review, you can look at this as me playing catch-up. I couldn't really find the right note to end that review on, so you're left with a poor concluding paragraph. Deal with it. Like I said yesterday, the season finale of Veronica Mars was on tonight. It was good. In some ways, it exceeded many of my expectations. Like how I thought it'd be a cop-out to throw Veronica and Logan back together just to make everyone happy, even though that's what I really wanted to see. They tackled it well. Logan (played to perfection by scientologist Jason Dohring) got to beat the shit out of two different dudes, there was tons of bloodshed, Dick revealed a budding problem with alcoholism, Jake Kane made a reappearance, plus there was tons of Wallace, which is something that had been missing for a while. All in all, a solid episode(s), but an unfortunately premature ending to a show that had an extremely bright future.

My first summer class starts tomorrow, but don't let that deter anyone, because I'll still be working these ridiculous 4-Midnight shifts at resident safety, where I'll have plenty of time to write one entry a day. My relief is probably showing up here momentarily, so I'm going to cut this a little short. I'd like to remind everyone again to check out that new Okkervil River track, it's bangin'. The link is in yesterday's post. Also here's a link to the new Interpol tune. I'm digging it. Reminds me more of Turn on the Bright Lights than Antics. As always, enjoy your evenings, I'll be seeing y'all tomorrow. Later skaters.

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