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Thursday, July 7, 2022

Little mouse, we were already dead before the ship even sank

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graphic, Natalie Peoples

Over the years, Pacific Northwest indie band Modest Mouse managed to create complex, oddball rock. Some, including the band, might have imagined that the same group that created 1997’s Bizarre lonely crowd west would eventually become a Grammy-nominated, stadium-playing act. So when Modest Mouse landed a massive mainstream hit with “Float On”—and did just that—it was a surprising result.

Good news for those who like bad news Marked the beginning of Modest Mouse’s divisive turn from experimental mid-tier indie band to becoming a globally known name. With that growing popularity, there was great pressure to create a follow-up that would match the success of Good News and appeal to new fans, while still not alienating those who had been following the band – and its formerly lo-fi, rough-around-the-edges sound – from the beginning.

With we were dead before the ship even narrow, Modest Mouse met those expectations. Frontman Isaac Brock did not attempt to write the next “Float On”, but instead continued his songwriting with the same complex mindset as before. And while the album is just as polished Good NewsIt still takes a lot of uses throughout. ship It became the album to prove that, although Modest Mouse’s fan base and sound changed, it didn’t have to compromise the effortless asymmetry that made it such an exciting act in the first place—and it was the band’s best post-“Float On”. “The release remains.

However, the process of working on this album was not easy at first. Guitarist Dan Gallucci left mid-tour for the previous record. But frontman Isaac Brock decided to shoot for the stars—and invited Smith’s former guitarist Johnny Marr to co-write and play guitar. ship, Marr accepted, and that unexpected combination proved to be spectacular, beginning a creative breakthrough for both camps, with Modest Mouse and the famed guitarist producing music that felt unlike anything that had worked before either. Had done it ,Marr had to record with a modest mouse for only ten days.But the chemistry with the band was so intense that the guitarist canceled his flight back to England to live in Portland and later toured as the band’s guitarist.)

what makes ship In addition to the inclusion of Mara, the record has a commitment to the group’s theme. The LP, once referred to by Brock as a “nautical balalaika carnival romp”, was reportedly Initially conceived as a concept album about a boat crew who dies in every song., The concept was not completely finished, but the theme allowed for the band to incorporate an elaborate arrangement of instruments that created a sense of life at sea, including accordion, banjo and horn.

Ship opens with “March Into The Sea,” a track that adopts a sea shanty-inspired style. The first instrument heard is the accordion, evoking the imagery of being aboard a pirate ship. Brock takes it further by singing in the punctuated manner of shanties, but instead of making the intonation melodic, he alternates between singing serenely and giving the song a grungier growl.

After “March” introduces the album’s concept in a very direct way, it’s the next song, “Dashboard,” that really serves as the route into the record. Chosen as the first single, it’s an effervescent song that has far more to offer than simply “’Float On’ but with horns.”

At first listen, it doesn’t particularly sound like something you’d expect from Modest Mouse. But before long, Brock’s distinctive vocals and signature sense of humor shine through. Brock references Planes, Trains, And Automobiles—ironically, the movie about nearly every mode of transportation that isn’t a ship—throughout the song: “The dashboard melted but we still have the radio,” “Well, the windshield was broken but I love the fresh air you know.” Musically, it’s quite different, but thematically, it does feel like a companion song to “Float On”: Even when things go to shit, you must keep going.

The band balances its moments of experimentation with a still-newfound poppier approach to songs, making the switch between styles every couple of tracks or so. “Dashboard” is followed by “Fire It Up,” the closest thing sonically to “Float On,” but without the infectious hook that made for such a big hit. The focus is on Brock’s vocals instead of the instruments, and showcases the frontman’s range as he shifts from a snarl to coos.

Then there’s “Florida,” the middle ground between typical Modest Mouse and the band’s new, more accessible sound. Brock’s vocals are jumpy, with a busy sing-talk approach. But that’s cleverly contrasted by having The Shins frontman James Mercer on backing vocals, bringing a gentle, warm touch to the song. (His vocals also appear in “We’ve Got Everything” and “Missed The Boat.”) It’s one of the band’s most complex tracks, going back and forth from poppy to gritty. That complexity is also present in its lyrics, spit out rapid-fire by Brock (“Although we often wondered / It was no thing of wonder, the shit that flew from our minds”).

But the dark horse on the album is “Parting Of The Sensory.” It’s not the most popular track off of Ship, but it’s maybe the most impressive. “Parting Of The Sensory” is one of Modest Mouse’s most experimental works, with a combination of traditional instrumentation—fiddle, banjo, balalaika, and Marr on guitar—and otherworldly synth effects, to produce a stunning result (with album producer Dennis Herring and musician Naheed Simjee doing the claps and stomps). The words are nihilistic: “Someday you will die somehow and something’s gonna steal your carbon.” But the lyrical darkness is almost disguised with such a catchy chorus.

It’s a tough song to top, but Modest Mouse follows it up with another that’s one of the best in the band’s career: “Missed The Boat.” It features some of Brock’s strongest songwriting, with clever, attention-grabbing lyrics (“While we’re on the subject / Could we change the subject now? / I was knocking on your ear’s door / But you were always out.”)

It’s open to interpretation. It works as a breakup song, about pretending everything is fine while still dealing with the pain of its dissolution (“Was it ever worth it? / Was there all that much to gain? / Well, we knew we’d missed the boat / And we’d already missed the plane”). Yet it also fits as auto-critique, with Brock seemingly acknowledging that while the band’s success looks great from the outside, “leveling up” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be (“Oh, and we carried it all so well / As if we got a new position / Oh, and I laugh all the way to hell / Saying, ‘Yes this is a fine promotion’”). It’s one of the most pared-down songs on the record, and that’s perhaps what works best about it.

The same goes for “Little Motel,” another number that allows Brock’s voice and words to shine without relying on the bells and whistles (in this case, literally) of the instrumentation. It’s a song that doesn’t entirely fit within the rest of the album—it’s too soft compared to everything around it—but it’s so gorgeous that it’d be hard to imagine Ship without it.

The song, written by Brock after a fight with his partner, is one of the most compelling in the band’s entire body of work. That’s in part thanks to Marr, whom Brock credited for “saving” the song with the “twinkly, single-string stuff.” And by getting personal in a manner uncommon for him, Brock’s lyrical vulnerability gives the song wonderful depth: “We treat mishaps like sinking ships and / I know that I don’t want to be out to drift / Well, I can see it in your eyes like I taste your lips and / They both tell me that we’re better than this.”

Brock doesn’t seem comfortable staying in those quieter moments, though. “Little Motel” is immediately followed by some of the most guitar-heavy songs on the record: “Stream Engenius” and “Spitting Venom.” The latter in particular succeeds; what begins as a simple acoustic track steadily transforms into an electric guitar-focused, angsty number, bursting with aggression. While his lyrics often veer on the vague side, “Spitting Venom” has heartbreakingly literal details: “Well, we went downtown and we sat in the rain / Well, looking all direction and waiting for a train / Thought over / It’s all over.” It’s yet more proof that some of Ship’s best standouts are those emotionally charged songs where Brock lets it all out.

Modest Mouse ends the record with two of its poppiest tracks: “People As Places As People” and “Invisible.” But even those lighter moments never are devoid of Modest Mouse’s grittiness; Brock frequently pairs the brightest riffs with his most aggressive vocals.

We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank may not have been readily received by many longstanding fans upon its 2007 release; even The A.V. Club’s former staffer Katie Rife Once the album was written they stopped listening to the slight mouse Altogether, But with a major label like Epic behind it, the band couldn’t fall back on its DIY approach; rather than, ship Creating accessible music allowed the band to test the limits of their oddities. Looking back almost two decades later, ship Comes across like a modest mouse, which has something to prove – showing the breadth of his talent and refusing to let the “float on” define his career.

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– Article Written By @ from https://www.avclub.com/modest-mouse-we-were-dead-before-the-ship-even-sank-1848743589

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