Ah, the stopgap EP. The most venerable media for filler (less reputable ones being the Live album / EP, B-sides, and the LIMITED EDITION BONUS TRACKS), the stopgap EP is the most likely to contain what fans of a band seek in a bunch of tracks deemed not good enough to release on an actual studio album: new songs. This is as opposed to live tracks or demos (or “live in studio” garbage like the bonus tracks on TMAA).
There are a few main forms of extra studio songs for the stopgap EP and other forms of filler: covers, instrumentals, “experimental” songs (some good, usually not), and normal songs omitted from their albums because they don’t “fit the mood,” are bad, or for no clear reason. It is this last subcategory that the stopgap EP obtainer seeks out, listening to bad outtakes in search of an elusive moment that not only is great, but few others have heard.
Modest Mouse are a good band, but more importantly for this EP, they are a band that seem to record more good songs that their albums have room for. This means that their stopgap EPs are more than contractual obligation; heckfire, they had a stopgap ALBUM and it was grape like Welches, so surely they have eight good songs lying around, yeah?
Well, mostly. Eight good songs is about as many as their album had. But since the album had a tendency to feature somewhat blah songs that sounded “spacey” and “angry,” this EP has more room for existential weirdness and sadness (and even a little happiness, with mixed results).
There are no covers – Modest Mouse seems to scorn them given their paucity of studio material – yay paucity! -, but there is one instrumental. Then there are three “experimental” songs, three normal-but-omitted songs, and one slightly extended album song.
The instrumental is nothing special – a (n albeit catchy) “dark” bassline that reminds me of Tool (and that’s never a good thing) and a bunch of swooshy space noises for almost five minutes, and “You’re the Good Things” is a horrifying attempt to sound happy with horrible lyrics (e.g. “You’re the icing on the cake / On the table at my wake”) and annoying draaaaawn out vowels and music that just follows that melody exactly, but the rest! Oooh the rest. “Night on the Sun” is a lengthy hopeless drawn out multi-part affair that sounds like a subdued early Modest Mouse, “Here it Comes” has a rollercoaster vocal melody and is all foreboding-like, and the edgy, slide-guitar-drenched “3 Inch Horses, Two Faced Monsters” is the bomb like tick tick.
Then there’s the melodramatically-titled “So Much Beauty in Dirt” – read these lyrics briefly, Jim:
Out of breath and out of cast
Find yourself watching M.A.S.H.
Every Night on the Couch
Woman says “let’s take a drive down south”
Roll down the windows and open our mouths
Taste where we are and play the music loud
Stop the car, lay on the grass
The planets spin and we watch space pass
Walk a direction, see where we get
I never knew nothing, so there’s nothing to forget
Get real drunk and ride our bikes
There’s so much beauty it could make you cry
Now imagine delivered all rapid-fire-like (and that’s the first verse). Do you feel somewhat inspired, or annoyed at the relentless optimism and immaturity? I go back and forth, but any song that’s genuinely affecting is good for me! Plus, it’s less than a minute and a half long.
Then there’s another song, and “I Came As A Rat” with an extra minute of jamming. Glee. I give it an eight!
Oh, and I hate Dove. The soap / beauty product maker has embarked on its latest asinine marketing campaign, which is a continuation of its existing, despicably dishonest plan of selling beauty products to people while calling them beautiful. It has all the honesty and pathos of Lindsay Lohan in a fur coat doing a spot for the Humane Society. Or Sarah Palin pardoning a turkey in front of a slaughterhouse, if you prefer.
Their newest ad starts off showing a brief series of images on a television; images of models, then the word “diet.” Then it zooms out to show a despondent seven year old girl on a couch in a darkened, David Lynch-esque living room, and the voiceover informs us to take on the beauty industry before it takes on our children. The last line, of course, informs us that “you help every time you buy Dove.”
If you recall, Dove were the people with their “real beauty” campaign recently, that featured plus-sized models in skimpy bathing suits. Never mind that that campaign indicts women who are not plus-sized as not being “really beautiful,” and never mind that obesity is a serious health problem in North America, and never mind that our excess creates deficits of food elsewhere in the world, even though I mind all of these things very much. My biggest problem with these little campaigns is that they promote the notion of nothing being exceptional, nothing being another more than anything else. If everyone is beautiful equally, then nobody is because beauty, from Helen of Troy to Paris Hilton, is about exceptionalism and difference. If we level the playing field there is no game to play. It’s part of a grander scheme that endlessly decries “snobbiness” and opinions. If nobody is beautiful, how long is it before no music is beautiful and Larry the Cable Guy should be as respected as Mitch Hedberg? It’s the same populist pandering that gives people like Sarah Palin and Bill O’Reilly careers. Dove is encouraging us to be fat while reassuring us that it’s okay, we don’t have to FEEL fat. Seen that McLatte ad where two girls in a coffee shop joyfully throw down their books and announce that they don’t have to keep pretending to know where Paraguay is anymore? It’s the same thing, but replace stupidity with obesity. Do whatever you want, we’re on your side, and to hell with those big, bad, pretty people who make you feel ugly.
Here’s the truth about Dove and their campaigns: It’s a bait and switch. They’re lying to you. Firstly, Dove is owned by Unilever, which also owns Axe and Oglivy. Axe is a deodorant whose television ads are teenaged male fantasy camps relentlessly portraying women as sex toys. Oglivy, meanwhile, is the US distributor for Barbie dolls. Oops. Dove is not just cynical and manipulative, they are hypocritical. They sell beauty products for Christ’s sake. They are not a charity fund, and the last line of their commercial is probably the single most disingenuous thing I have ever heard in my almost twenty four years of life. Secondly, we are not all equally beautiful butterflies. If we were, this page would have no ratings and Pitchfork would be telling you to go buy Nickelback albums, and there wouldn’t be anything wrong with being, let’s say, homophobic, because hating gays is an equally valid opinion from an equally beautiful person, inside and out. Don’t listen to Dove. Stand up for what you believe in and don’t settle for smirking mediocrity. You’ll be making the world a better place.