Modest Mouse: We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank

I don’t review many major label releases, but I took this one on for a couple of reasons. First of all I wanted to see how these former indie darlings had fared in the wake of their breakthrough album, 2004’s Good News For People Who Love Bad News, which contained the out of left field hit, “Float On.” Second, I was very interested in the addition of the legendary former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr to the band’s lineup. This was akin to the Yankees adding another superstar to the roster after winning the World Series.

Modest Mouse have responded emphatically on their third major label album. The new album picks up where Good News left off, and then moves forward into new territory as a result of the brilliant guitar interplay that Marr has inspired. What would seem to be a stylistic mismatch succeeds admirably. Isaac Brock’s intense, quirky vocals will be off-putting to some, but they serve the music very well. Lyrically, Brock continues to mine a nautical theme, with many of the songs making some reference to seafaring.

Longtime collaborator Dennis Herring is back in the producer’s chair. The album sounds a bit cluttered at times, but I think of it as a joyous indication that these musicians were simply bursting with ideas, particularly in terms of the guitars, and nearly all of the ideas are interesting and worth hearing.

Modest Mouse are clearly not interested in compromise or resting on their laurels. They continue to push the envelope and I’ll be looking forward to their future endeavors. As for this one, the album’s first single “Dashboard” is as good a place to start as any.

In A Word: Seaworthy