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Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before
Review by Andy ArgyrakisThough Modest Mouse has been a staple in indie circles since the early 1990s, the band didn't fully blow up in the mainstream until 2004's Good News for People Who Love Bad News (Epic), known especially for the single "Float On." Despite taking its sound to a broader audience, the band's core ideals remained generally the same, while sonically pushing the envelope into an even more alternative direction. After a three year wait (which would've been shorter without release delays) the band is back to pleasing both factions of its fan base with a very special new member likely to usher in an entirely new audience as well.
Anyone who looks at the latest disc's linear notes will notice Johnny Marr's name, and yes, we're talking the seminal guitarist for The Smiths turned solo star and frequent session man in his own right. The legendary player not only stepped up to the plate to write songs for the disc and lay down his instrumental parts, but is also hitting the road this summer to officially cement his membership. From the very start of the disc with the carnival swirling "March Into the Sea," it's clear Marr helped ignite an additional creative spark within Modest Mouse, who once again build off a cavalcade of instrumental experimentation and Isaac Brock's pirate-like growls. The lead single "Dashboard" takes one of the band's most accessible directions on the disc, but adapts a newly discovered dance beat that mirrors Marr's post-Smiths band Electronic.
"Fire It Up" showcases a slightly softer side, reminiscent of The Decemberists' most recent material, but again carried by Brock's distant vocal stylings. "We've Got Everything" follows closest in sonic context to "Float On," though expect pounding with a less militant and much more melodic approach. Yet for those worried about the project's leaning in the more radio-ready direction, there's still plenty of under the radar ideas, particularly evident on the eight-minute grandeur of "Spitting Venom." The track encompasses several ambitious tempo shits, including an unassuming opening then spastic singing that dives into a folk-flavored tint and finally a pub-inspired rave up. The complicated musing provides an apt summary of the album, which basically takes several enlightening twists and turns through both familiar and uncharted territory, continuing Modest Mouse's streak as one of today's most meaningful bands.
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