Modest Mouse more evolved, but true to its original sound

Jinae West

It’s a Catch-22 – a toss between mainstream fame and indie gravitas.

Modest Mouse treads a fine line. After “Float On” launched the band into commercial super stardom in 2004, independent die-hards hung their heads in shame at the very thought of landing a spot in the American Top 40.

Largely due to the album’s breakout single, their album Good News for People Who Love Bad News widened Modest Mouse’s appeal to include a mass of fair-weather fans following in the same vein as self-proclaimed Beatles enthusiasts who are only familiar with “Hey Jude” and vaguely acknowledge an allusive impact beyond radio airwaves.

Modest Mouse

We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

Released on Epic Records

Stater rating (out of five): ????

If selling out to the man even remotely resembles the band’s fifth full-length release, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, Modest Mouse deserves a financial high-five and a slap on the back.

Staying true to form with an abrasive and aggressive alternative edge, Modest Mouse rushes the listener into “March Into the Sea,” a thrashing, nautical escape recklessly pushed forward by Isaac Brock’s barking reprimands. The change in Brock’s gruffness and volume feels like a tide moving in and out, leaving temporary vocal imprints before washing away with a single crash.

A pulsating beat permeates “Dashboard” through its slick and whirring licks. Several tracks, including “Florida,” feature Shins front man James Mercer and cranks the rhythmic caliber to capacity, all the way down U.S. Highway 1. “Parting of the Sensory” manages to pull the pace without losing momentum while “Missed the Boat” exudes acoustic simplicity.

In “We’ve Got Everything,” Brock delivers a dose of contagious repetitiveness as the chorus slowly sinks into the listener’s subconscious. “Education” and “Invincible” radiate an undeniable influence from former The Smiths guitarist and most recent addition to the band, Johnny Marr, driving Modest Mouse’s kinetic energy to the brink.

We Were Dead never strays too far from the band’s trademark sound, yet keeps things fresh by subtly introducing the next step in Modest Mouse’s evolution. As for the band’s integrity, Brock describes it best in the lyrical prose of “Invisible”: “And like the orphaned sea / we were never invisible / but I guess we could not see. / We’ll get crushed by the ocean / but it will not get us wet.”

Modest Mouse hasn’t drowned in the mainstream after all.

Contact ALL correspondent Jinae West at [email protected].