Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

This is your Dad’s Modest Mouse. This is the inevitable expected decline, the price of fame and fortune and being so good for so long. And not that it’s bad, it’s very good, the songs are generally quite catchy, well produced, well written, well produced, but the resonant meaning of it all isn’t there. What was that Ben Folds called it? Selfless, cold, and composed. Well, they’re about 30% of the way there, and from here on out it’ll be a surprise if they put out an improvement ever again. It’s like when REM got old and the songs slowly became less memorable in a gestalt sense; more blankly reminiscent of earlier works, more reliant on cliches (“Missed the Boat”? Ugh! And on one of the best songs too!). Honestly, it sounds a lot like mid-90s alt-rock. Which is the exact thing they didn’t sound like when they came out! Okay, “Invisible” stands out quite a bit, especially as the closer (Recency Effect), but I can’t think its message is too original (“you’re not invisible inside your car” is the main line – didn’t they already do this during “Bury Me With It?” And environmental concerns are so stylish they unite liberals and conservatives) and I think it sounds like .

Their drummer’s name starting last album is “Joe Plummer” though! That’s funny! It’s both a reference to American politics AND a reference to The Clash!

Produced like GNFPWHN, but without all the musical variation, and I bet that passes for a “return to form” in these parts (reviews). Well it’s a lie, and it’s still very good, I admit. But there’s nothing here that grabs, and a few that actively suck, and the single sounds just like the last lead single, right down to sequencing, guitar tone, tempo, and cheerful “single lining” type outlook. Come on! Nothing against the lurching opener, or “People as Places as People,” but it feels like the die has been cast right away. Good, but not great ideas, lyrics, and playing. It’s sad, and I think we’re on our own from here on out. It was a good run, see you next album!

By the way, why is it that nowadays bands put out one great album (Band of Horses or Tokyo Police Club or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and on on and on) then suddenly lose it in a mess of sounding “atmospheric” and “lush” and “focusing more on texture instead of melody” or other complex synonyms for “shitty, but I want to present myself as ‘with it’ but more loyal than fickle kids these days”? It’s an epidemic and I’m sad. A 6.5 out of 10. Seniority makes it a low seven.

7/10 

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