Modest Mouse is Back

Modest Mouse is Back

Bennett Brase

After an eight year absence, everyone’s favorite 2000s radio-friendly indie band comes into the spotlight once again, for better or for worse.

Most people have heard of Modest Mouse thanks to their breakthrough single “Float On.” What most people don’t know, however, is that they’ve been in the game for quite some time. They were a big part of the Washington post-punk movement of the mid and late ’90s, and their sophomore record The Lonesome Crowded West is widely considered one of the best of the genre, not to mention it’s one of my personal favorites. By the time they reached the radio in 2004, they had cleaned up their sound and bumped up their production quality quite a bit, trading in their post-punk roots for a more pop-oriented indie approach. They’ve only made one other album since then, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, which frankly put a lot of people to sleep.

When I first heard about the new album Strangers to Ourselves, I was hoping that Modest Mouse would be able to use the energy they had delivered in previous albums and couple it with frontman Isaac Brock’s songwriting skills to deliver something that had been long missing from their discography. I have to stop getting my hopes up, though. Oddly enough, Strangers to Ourselves seems to be the band’s most subdued album yet.

The opening track (which is also the title track) slowly pulls you into the album with a lethargic progression and lots of added string instrumentation. The next few songs after it do more of the same, keeping a surprisingly tame and chill atmosphere, including the album’s lead single “Lampshades on Fire.” Then the song “Pistol” kicks in, bringing you back to the Modest Mouse glory days of quirky energy and Isaac Brock’s signature manic vocal delivery– even though the drums have been electronically syncopated, which adds a strange but catchy touch. After that, the album really kind of devolves into an underwhelming collection of mild songs. Even some of the other pre-release singles from this record such as “Coyotes” were just really not bringing anything interesting to the table.

Songs like “The Ground Walks with Time in a Box” and “The Best Room” do a good job of grabbing your attention with loud instrumentals and infectious vocal melodies, but the highlights just don’t do a good enough job making up for the less interesting deep cuts. To me, this album could have just been shortened by several songs. There’s just too much mediocrity going on here for such a great band. Despite having had eight years to create a potential masterpiece, Modest Mouse just ends up sounding like a rookie indie band trying way too hard to make a meaningful piece of music rather than 20+-year veterans with great albums already under their belts. Initially I gave this album a 4, but I think it’s grown on me to the point where I’m feeling a light to decent 5.