Modest Mouse Return With 'Strangers To Ourselves'
Modest Mouse are in an unusual position, a fork in the road of their career. Having made an album that not only stayed true to their artistic endeavors, they also flew into the mainstream in their home country of America. “We were dead..” got to number 1 in the US , with tracks covered on the likes of the American Idol. Considering it as a concept album about dead sailors, it seemed smooth sailing into the big time.
Perhaps this pressure is what led Isaac Brock (lead singer) to prolong “Strangers to Ourselves”. Thankfully “Strangers..” is an album that appears to have no pressure, restrains or even category. The string intro, on the album title track, may mislead the unassuming listener into thinking Modest Mouse have mellowed with time, as Brock’s usual blues drawls hangs loose over the slow burner. As if gifted with foresight Brock turns this concept on its head with first single “Lampshades on Fire”. Shimmering guitar, shrieked vocals and catchy musings it’s this albums answer to “Dashboard” clearly Marr’s guitar talents aren’t too missed.
The lack of cohesion in the song is both beautiful and disorienting. It’s a centrifuge of indie delight. It bounces from disco-pop of “The Ground Walks in Time in a Box”, with a swaggering slap bass line that forms it’s own dance floor. Then jumps on the piano led swing of “Sugar Boats”. The only links between the songs are Brock’s imagery rich lyrics. “ Coyotes tiptoe in the snow after dark. At home with the ghosts in the national parks”, is delivered in his pittar-patter hushed tones, creating a swelling landscape on tender track “Coyotes”. Every song bursts with this kind of imagination and inspiration, meaning “Strangers..” becomes a community, every song telling it’s own story.
So at the fork Modest Mouse didn’t choose left or right, but ploughed on forwards with “Strangers..”. They never played by the usual rules and it has once again paid off.
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Words by Jack Wood