Modest Mouse weren’t exactly gone between the release of We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank and Strangers To Ourselves, but they mostly kept to touring during that time and refrained from releasing new music. Add in the departure of founding bassist Eric Judy, and not knowing what influences crept in and distracted the band in half a decade, there was no telling how the band’s approach to music would change.
Well, don’t worry! In spite of (or perhaps thanks to) all of that time off, the group has managed to prove that they’re still capable of putting out music that shows they still care about what they do. Strangers To Ourselves is another far-reaching, mufti-faceted record from a group that’s worn many hats through the course of a career that stretched past the two-decade mark.
The poppy side of Modest Mouse’s sound is back on this album, full of deep, layered arrangements and ventures into all sorts of the different genres that the band has touched on before over the years. Issac Brock’s redneck funk (The Ground Walks, Sugar Boats), jazzy ballads (the title track), and folk music (Coyotes) all blend together here as they have before in the band’s work. It’s a far cry from the band’s early work as an indie trio, even if two of the same songwriters are still here. The prog elements that appeared so often during the first half of the group’s career are entirely gone. So are the sparse arrangements that distinguished those same early records.
Even if the band hasn’t stretched their sound much in the last eight years, they remain the same capable songwriters that they’ve always been. A catchy, drum-lead tune like Shit In Your Cut is the sort of odd, vaguely nasty tune that really only this band would be capable of turning out. Songs like Be Brave and The Best Room are classic Modest Mouse, the sort of catchy pop songs that have highlighted many of their LPs. Maybe it could be argued that a song or two could’ve been dropped from this record to make it more concise, but who really cares? Modest Mouse records have always been just a little too long, in some ways it’s part of their charm.
Modest Mouse are still headed down the same path that they’ve been on since they signed with a major and released The Moon & Antarctica back in 2001. This is a poppier record than anything they were releasing fifteen years ago. Maybe even the lightest album, musically, that they’ve put out in their entire careers. Lyrically, it’s more of Brock’s usual themes of parties, substance abuse, and existential misery that has made up everything he’s written since the start of the band’s career.
Perhaps the poppiest, perhaps the lightest album, musically, that they've put out in their entire careers. Lyrically, it's more of Brock's usual themes of parties, substance abuse, and existential misery.