Little Lies and Massive Dreams

My name is Bear. I play in a band called Talking About Commas and live and work in Providence, RI. I like music.
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Mar 12, 2007

Modest Mouse sets sail

As you listen to the first few measures of a seemingly ancient pump organ play, a tiny voice should echo in the back of your skull, “Ladies and Gentleman: Isaac Brock presents his twisted tales of the sea”. “March into the Sea” is in fact the title of the first track on Modest Mouse’s new album. It is also the first opening album track to be in 6/8 since 1996's This is a Long Drive..( “Dramamine”.) Not that anyone should know that anyway (Although they do rock out in 6/8 quite well). “March into the Sea” swells from loud crests to pretty troughs where Brock sings “Treat me like the sea, oh so salty and mean” before cackling into oblivion like an old Sea Captain.

Next up is the new wave dance rock-y radio single,“Dashboard”, which I am starting to come around on, not quite yet though. The album finally stands on its own as a new offering by the third track (when I say new, I mean it. Modest Mouse is constantly changing either in influence or in personnel). We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank marks the debut of new guitarist and ex-Smith, Johnny Marr. The Modest Mouse of 2007 first becomes present with “Fire it Up”’s electronic beats and Marr’s brand of ethereal guitar licks.

Nautical themes continue to dominate lyrical content with “Florida” and “Missed the Boat”. The latter of which is a classic window into Brocks brilliant indie-pop songsmithing, complete with Shins’ leader James Mercer lending some of his unique tenor. (In my opinion Mercer and Jim James are the two best high-registered male vocalists going.) There is a lot of MM’s patented choppy neurotic dance rock (“We’ve Got Everything”, “Education”) on the disc, but the slower tunes are where the album excels. “Little Motel” is the most soothing song Brock and the Boys have ever put out. They even dabble musically in the nautical themes as Marr’s blissfull slide guitar solo builds into such chaos I can actually hear the seagulls squawking around.

As with some other Modest Mouse album’s, they have packed too many songs on there. Clocking in at over an hour, though nice, does not help the solidarity of the album. The eight and a half minute epic “Spitting Venom” should have been the icing on the cake. MM even breaks out the big horn arrangements to accompany Marr’s “King of the Castle” influenced ostinato riffs and Brocks layered vocal conclusions during the songs drawn out ending. Yes, the sea was angry that day my friends but the good news is, we were already dead.

Rating: triple

Key songs: “Fire it Up”, “Missed the Boat”, “Little Motel”, “Spitting Venom”