Release Date: Aug 4, 2009
Record label: Sony
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Alternative
Modest Mouse’s fourth album, 2004’s Good News for People Who Love Bad News, arrived at an odd, off-kilter moment in pop history. The walls between the mainstream and the underground had come unexpectedly tumbling down. Suddenly the freaks were storming the gates and such unlikely stars as the Arcade Fire, the Walkmen and Death Cab for Cutie were garnering radio play and album sales.
Modest Mouse still seem monumentally uncomfortable with the alt-star mantle placed upon them by mainstream success, and this B-sides collection, No One’s First, and You’re Next, is both classic Mouse and a clear kiss-off to the fans who just want another big rock hit. Over crashing percussion and staticky guitars, frontman Isaac Brock tosses about churlish invective and odd non sequiturs in his trademark strangled holler. Beyond the banjo-brushed lullaby ”Autumn Beds” and the laser show-ready ”The Whale Song,” it’s a bumpy ride.
A decade ago, the idea that Modest Mouse would have the #1 album in the U.S. seemed about as unlikely as a liberal African-American president. But sure enough, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank debuted strong back in 2007, and the initial shock turned first into living-in-the-future optimism and then into holy-shit-what-do-we-do-now jitters. Would Isaac Brock, you know, blink? Would Modest Mouse's follow-up be a Best Buy exclusive? Would their next single end up on a summer blockbuster soundtrack? (Do they even make soundtracks for summer blockbusters anymore?) But the band's gradual acceptance via radio, commercials, and "American Idol" reveals the porousness of the 2000s mainstream rather than Brock's own career ambitions.
This collection of B-sides, recorded over the past few years, is way more put-together than Modest Mouse's previous rarities comps, Building Nothing Out Of Something and Sad Sappy Sucker. But it lacks the carefree charm of Isaac Brock's pre-success indie rock experiments. [rssbreak] While none of the eight songs will be burning up rock radio charts, they aren't throwaways either.
Man, was it really 15 years ago that Modest Mouse recorded Birds Vs. Worms? 15 years ago, an audibly younger Isaac Brock lisped his way through the first two minutes thirteen seconds of what would have been their debut LP, Sad Sappy Sucker, his voice thin, slightly shaky and youthfully charming. It’s a record whose mood swings wildly. Lyrics alternate between playful, nonsensical questions like ‘Watcha eat, watcha eat, watcha eat as an alien?’, and dark wordplay like ‘So lonely but never alone’.
For all intents and purposes, Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock has been involved with some of the best music this decade. His band released two of the top fifty albums of the entire decade, with Good New for People Who Love Bad News and The Moon & Antarctica, and he was the reason for Wolf Parade’s exuberant production on their debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary. More recently, his band’s latest album, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, was a welcome and welcoming addition to their catalog.