Monday, December 21, 2009

Modest Mouse - The Lonesome Crowded West

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from non-major label Modest Mouse. Obviously less polish, but I didn't know what else. What it ended up being was almost shockingly good, although it didn't quite click for me until somewhere during the fourth track, "Lounge (Closing Time)". It's basically making sure the "rock" in indie rock makes sense. The album is very long, almost 74 minutes, though it never seems like it drags or gets long-winded. Several songs last well past the six minute mark, and they all seem like they earn it. The end product is quite good, and possibly my favorite guitar album of the 90s. Very few songs don't have at least a couple great riffs that sound unique to the band, and occasionally they just get into a jam that could last forever. Isaac Brock obviously doesn't need Johnny Marr to rock the heck out, in any case. His vocals tend more towards shouting than on later releases, but there's still plenty of his regular unusual voice saying some odd, usually clever lyrics. Some songs are relatively serious, and others are in that darkly humorous mode.

Any of the five tracks that last at least six minutes are worth listening to. They all shift tempo repeatedly, and manage to stay interesting long enough to make you wish they lasted even longer. Maybe not the eleven minute "Truckers Atlas", but you get the point. "Heart Cooks Brain" is unique among the songs, featuring record scratching of all things and a nice mellow mix of bass and guitar that keeps it cool. "Jesus Christ Was an Only Child" is this album's "Wild Packs of Family Dogs", a hokey acoustic piece that's a lot more sinister than it appears in the first few seconds. "Doin' the Cockroach" gets pretty groovy about halfway through, and "Shit Luck" is a good example of the band's lighter side, as some heavy guitar accompanies Brock's shouts of things like "This boat is obviously sinking!" One of the things I like about Modest Mouse is how they manage to be playful with themes and vocals and serious with the music at the same time. They have their own thing going away from most of the rest of the scene, and I think it works pretty well. It makes me sort of depressed that I was listening to all the stuff on mainstream radio in the late 90s instead.


Anonymous said...

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Adrenaline said...

Thanks, I guess.