Modest Mouse – [EP]

Friday, 14 August 2009

Over the last couple of years (pretty much since Good News For People Who Love Bad News came out in 2004, but the rise really kicked into overdrive when We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank smashed listeners over the head and crashed the gates of mainstream radio in 2007), Modest Mouse has established itself as the big-time identified, hipster band of new rock (sort of like what the Talking Heads were to punk in the Seventies) and both fans as well as the media have watched them intently, with baited breath. Those devout zealots agonize over every artistic facet and creative decision the band makes with a fervor normally reserved for serious life decisions. For those on the outside looking in, it's all really fun to watch; the fans are entertaining to observe like an ant farm is to shake and the band is fun to watch because such a vaudevillian dramatic sense has never been conducted on the scale that Modest Mouse does it.

Because of their fans' propensity to put everything Modest Mouse does under the strongest possible microscopes, it's unlikely that No One's First, But You're Next will hold up to every expectation but, for those ant-gazers in the crowd, the EP is possessed of some interesting artifacts and surprising turns away from Modest Mouse's established practices.

To remove any doubts, it's completely understandable why these eight tracks were left off of Modest Mouse's last two albums, they don't fit the conventions or tight sonic adrenal rush that fueled both records at all. With more micro-size sonic palettes and distinctly non-rock intentions in mind, songs like “Autumn Beds” (a sort of southern gothic and sleepy ballad), “Perpetual Motion Machine” (a Tom Waits-by-way-of New Orleans funeral rag) and “King Rat” (a Ween-ish, minor-key but dry-eyed lament that's also tied to New Orleans), Modest Mouse shock their established 'new rock god' image and opt to simply push through and exhaust each idea to purge it from memory before stepping to the next one to expunge it too. In each case, the dynamic tenor is way over the top – even by Modest Mouse's standards – as the band doesn't worry about living up to their own established standards, but hammers out the details to let the songs live or die on their own at the whim of listeners. It's not always pretty and each song is flawed on the most basic levels (it's hard not to want to laugh along with singer Isaac Brock though, as he almost cracks up on his own throwaway lyric in “King Rat”), but there is a charm as well as a bravery in the fact that the band was willing to let these songs be heard. There's respect to be had for the band in that.

Now that No One's First, And You're Next is out, Modest Mouse has wiped their slate clean to start all over again with their next effort. In some ways, passing fans can hope that some of the musical ideas on No One's First… will re-manifest elsewhere (I can't speak for everyone, but I'm a sucker for a Creole funeral march) but, even if they don't, it's guaranteed that what happens next will be something of significant interest. A slate wiped clean begs marking up.


Modest Mouse online

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“Satellite Skin” from No One's First, And You're Next.


The No One's First And You're Next
EP is out now and available here on Amazon .

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