Thursday, August 27, 2009

Modest Mouse - No One's First And You're Next

WHAT: You know who these dudes are, come on. Indie vets return with a new EP composed of songs that didn't make it on to their last two full lengths, Good News For People Who Love Bad News, and We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank.

WHEN: 2009

1) Satelite Skin (3:59)

It's a jangly little number with slightly off kilter guitar parts and an impassioned vocal from Issac Brock- who dials back the carnival barker mode I think he got a little too fond of on the last Modest Mouse full length. It's one of the more straightforward Modest Mouse songs I've heard, but after We Were Dead, I'm fine with a palette cleanser like this. RIFF.

2) Guilty Cocker Spaniels (4:02)

OK, now this really sounds like it's from the sessions that produced the past two full-lengths, except for some reason, Brock kind of sounds like a toothless elderly man during the verses. Here, I'm a fan of the words, but not so much the delivery. The song changes direction nicely about halfway in, though. There are some parts here that I wish were just louder though. It's something about the band that I've missed in recent years. I haven't felt much of the intimacy of Moon And Antarctica or even parts of Good News. It just kind of seems like they're treading an eternal middle ground these days- sound-wise. Makes sense that this was a B-side. FLUB.

3) Autumn Beds (3:41)

Consider my words eaten once they busted out the banjo. Brock goes through a few of his voices- the quiet speaking one, the restrained yelp, before settling into a nice repeated phrase of "we won't be sleeping" for a little bit. Intimacy restored, stupidity setting in a bit for my previous statements. This song stands as a winning instance of grabbing whatever instruments are in the room and writing a song- as I'd like to believe they did. Should've been on one of the albums. RIFF.

4) The Whale Song (6:05)

It may be called "The Whale Song," but i'll be damned if there aren't some guitar parts on this song that sound like seals. The song is instrumental for almost all of the first three minutes, so I hope you like a bufett of guitar parts/tones. Then, almost as if he remembered he was writing an actual song, Brock multi-tracks his voice a bunch and crams two songs worth of hooks into a part that builds and builds. It doesn't explode as much as it just returns to the earlier section with the volume turned up. However, during the last minute, I'm forced to eat my words from earlier once again, as the guitar gets downright titanic for a bit. The main riff may get stuck in your head in a bad way, but the rest of the trip more than makes up for it. RIFF.

5) Perpetual Motion Machine (3:11)

Nice! The return of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, who I never thought were used to their full potential by Modest Mouse. Brock seems to be resisting the temptation to slip into his Tom Waits swamp-romp voice, and instead offers a pretty standard vocal part by Brock-ian standards. A wise move, as it lets the unorthodox instrumentation shine. RIFF.

6) History Sticks To Your Feet (3:55)

A guitar plays the same part for the entirety of this song. I'm sure there's some great metaphorical reason for that, but that doesn't equal a good song to me. The rest of the band doesn't do all that much to pull their weight either. It stomps a little bit, but never really gets revved. FLUB.

7) King Rat (5:30)

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band fucking EARN the word "Dirty" in their name with the hellspawn trumpet blast that signals this track's opening. The trumpet doesn't return until nearly midway through the song, where it's used to playfully melodic effect. The banjo makes a return as well in this song, mixed nicely among the other instruments. It seems to be a running trend on this EP that the songs with the most bizarre instrumentation seem to turn out the best, and this song is no exception. RIFF.

8) I've Got It All (Most) (3:10)

This song gets points for actually getting loud about halfway through. The rest of it is pleasantly jangly. Sounds like it may have been one of the songs recorded with ex-Smith Johnny Marr on guitar, so even more points for that. RIFF.


SCORE: (6 RIFFS/8 TRACKS) x 100% = 75%

Yep. It's another mostly good release from Issac Brock and company. The songs that fail here fail simply because they are boring, or seem a little phoned in. But then again, the eternal excuse is there: "That's why they're B-sides." Worth checking out though.


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