Question: What could possibly make Modest Mouse’s music even more tantalizing to the eardrums?

Answer: Add in the riffs and embellishments of Johnny Marr from the Smiths fame.

For me Modest Mouse has always been about the vocals and lyrics. Not saying that the music wasn’t good – it was/is fabulous – but the highlight has always been Isaac Brock’s quirky lyrics and absolutely unique vocal style. This strength shines once again on their latest album, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, but the music, all those instruments, unusual percussion, noises, and backing vocals supporting Isaac’s lead vocal, has become a mind blowing aural (no, not oral) experience.

What I am trying to say is that the addition of Johnny Marr to the band may have seemed like a highly unusual choice, it did for me, but it really works. Everything Modest Mouse is still there, wholly intact, but there’s something extra that wasn’t there before.

Despite undeniable commercial success, Modest Mouse has always flown just under the radar of wide popular acceptance making them irrepressibly ‘indie cool.’ Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint on such matters, this album is set to change all that. It is so undeniably tasty from the opening accordion sounds on “March Into the Sea” to what sound like howling wolves of the closing track “Invisible” that this album is going to go big. As an aside, those wolf sounds made me think of Grandpa Simpson, “I’m cold and there are wolves after me.” For me, this broadening popularity of Modest Mouse makes me happy as more people should hear this band, know about this band. On the downside, the days of being able to see these guys in a smaller venue are likely coming to a close.

Modest Mouse’s musical mastery on We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank is such that they can send you into a reflective happy trance, then jar you out of that complacent state with discordant vocals and guitars, then get you up and dancing to disco inspired bass and drums as you sing along to the melody…all of this often in the context of one song. That’s mastery. The opening track, “March Into The Sea”, is a prime example of this phenomenon.

The first single from the album, “Dashboard” (see the video above), showcases Johnny Marr’s influence on Modest Mouse, his embellishments and guitar tone absolutely shines. It is a highly danceable and singable song, destined for wide radio play. If it doesn’t end up there…well then the DJ’s are idiots. Hang the DJ, hang the DJ, hang the DJ.

The only downside to this album was learning that I am nothing more than a carbon thief. On the plus side, it’ll all come full circle under some karmic rebalancing mechanism, for “Someday [I] will die somehow and someone’s gonna steal [my] carbon.”

One last time, and for greater clarity, this album is going to make existing Modest Mouse fans ecstatic. For those that haven’t had the pleasure of being introduced to their music, there’s never been a better time. Buy this album. It’s fucking awesome.

David Morley

Band
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