Growling indie rock merchants Modest Mouse have detailed surreal car trips, painted cities, floated on and sailed doomed expeditions, and then they took a sabbatical. Now their buzzing guitars and the howl of Isaac Brock are back for Strangers to Ourselves, a much postponed, much anticipated new album. It's the closest thing I can get to hearing a Wolf Parade album in 2015, and it's an event to behold for all of us.
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7/10 Simon Campbell 1st April 2015
Modest Mouse are back with a new album, 6 years (I know everywhere else say's 8 years but they did tour We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank for 2 years so I'll let them off there!) in the making! There have been some big changes over the course of that period, Johnny Marr left following the touring of WWDBTSES but more importantly founding member of the band Eric Judy departed for personal reasons in 2012.
Despite such issues the album starts off in fine fashion with the subtleness of the title track leading in to the funk fueled indie pop of 'Lampshades On Fire' and one of the highlights, 'Shit In Your Cut'. It's after this however that things take a turn for the worse with the song 'Pistol', which is not only completely out of place with its auto-tuned vocals and heavy synth beat, but also represents what in my opinion is the worst Modest Mouse song ever recorded.
The song 'Ansel' suffers as a result of having to deal with the ugly shadow cast over it by 'Pistol', before things are picked up again by 'The Ground Walks', With 'Time In A Box' which channels elements of Talking Heads funk and packs a punchy beat. As with many MM songs of the past, a number here focus on mankind taking what it wants from nature and not giving anything back. This includes the standout track on the album for me, the delightfully downbeat 'Coyotes' - "Coyotes tip toe through the snow after dark/ At home with the ghosts in the national parks/ Mankind's behave like some serial killers/ Giant old monsters afraid of the sharks".
The second half of the album continues with a return of James Mercer of The Shins to provide backing vocals on 'Wicked Campaign' before launching into the thumping shout-a-long 'Be Brave' which for all its aggressiveness feels restrained, however I can see it being fully unleashed at gigs. The quality of production is consistently high throughout which is impressive when considering the sheer amount going on virtually all of the songs, most noticeably on show however in the album closing 1-2 punch of 'Best Room' and 'Of Course We Know'.
Ultimately this is a good album which unfortunately gets bogged down at times as a result of too many ideas being brought to the table (And of course 'Pistol' but I don't really want to think about that track any more). This is the sound of a band getting used to its new surroundings (three of the six members are new) and there are more positives to take from the experience than negatives.
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