Modest Mouse Ends Eight Year Album Drought With ‘Strangers To Ourselves’ (ALBUM REVIEW)


modestmouse albumFunny how one can measure the shifts in civilization by the span of time that has lapsed between new albums from a favorite band. And in the eight years that lapsed between Modest Mouse records, we’ve experienced a societal de-evolution the likes of which none of us presently alive on Earth have ever endured.

“Mankind’s behavin’ like some serial killers,” laments Isaac Brock on “Coyotes”, the seventh cut into the band’s excellent sixth LP, Strangers To Ourselves. The melodic, acoustic sway-along is just one of the 15 winning new tracks sole original members Brock and drummer Jeremiah Green have concocted at the singer/guitarist’s freshly constructed Ice Cream Party Studios in the heart of Portlandia alongside a slew of collaborators, including production by Andrew Weiss, Tucker Martine, Clay Jones and Brian Deck with session work from the likes of James Mercer, longtime Mouse touring guitarist Jim Fairchild of Grandaddy fame, Dann Gallucci from The Cold War Kids and Califone drummer Ben Massaralla among several others.

But this large prep crew cooks up one hell of a signature dish in this near-hour-long opus, a crisper, more focused recount of the band’s celebrated Up Records days that doesn’t compromise the commercial edge they’ve established for themselves since hitting big with “Float On” back in 2004. It also sounds like a group letting loose after putting their most polite foot forward back in 2007 when Johnny Marr briefly joined their ranks for We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank.

There are elements of that sea chanty flavor the Marr-period Mouse was exploring on Strangers, particularly on songs like “Shit in Your Cut” and “Sugar Boats”, albeit in a manner that suggests inspiration from the collaborative relationship between Tom Waits and Les Claypool of Primus. But on the whole, this album is more about the band getting its groove back, which they do quite excellently on a number of tracks on here.

First single “Lampshades on Fire”, for instance, boasts a proto-reggae bounce that is simply irresistible, perhaps suggesting the material which transpired during those storied recording sessions with Big Boi a couple of years back. “Pistol”, meanwhile, envisions the life of serial killer Andrew Cunanan to the sound of homemade club music on a full 8 oz. bottle of Robitussin. “The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box” recalibrates Speaking in Tongues-era Talking Heads into perhaps the best disco rock song since “I Was Made for Loving You”.

But don’t worry, old school Mousers, you got songs on here like “Ansel”, “God is an Indian and You’re an Asshole” and “The Tortoise and the Tourist” which all come across like lost outtakes from The Lonesome Crowded West. However, its the moments on Strangers when Brock and co. tone down and mellow out that really offers hope for future Modest Mouse albums, particularly the balladry of the opening title track, the aforementioned Elliott Smith-nodding “Coyotes” and the swirling closing cut “Of Course We Know”.

Strangers to Ourselves might be the most prolonged and difficult album Modest Mouse has ever made. But its also one of their best, and just the right thing many of us need for these crazy days of mankind.

Related Content

2 Responses

  1. I heard Lampshades on fire and plagued stores and websites until I managed to get the album. Eight years wiped out in one play. Absolutely superb. My album of the year and only 9 1/2 months to go.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Posts

New to Glide

Keep up-to-date with Glide