It is finally here! Modest Mouse has released a new album! Fans, both the long-time The Lonesome Crowded West fans and the newer Good News for People that Love Bad News era fans finally have new material to digest. Isaac Brock’s Issaquah, Washington-based, indie-rock band had a strange trajectory to where they are now. In the early days, they surely felt like one of the most “indie” of bands imaginable, easily voted as least likely to break into mainstream. Even their first major studio album, The Moon & Antartica, felt conceptual, diverse and too experimental for mass adoption. Then Float On and Good News happened, and they soared to new heights. In the process, the fan base sort of split between the old-time fans versus the legion of newer fans. Both stayed loyal but probably enjoyed different aspects of Modest Mouse.
Now, eight years later, we have Strangers to Ourselves. Anticipation has built for eight long years in part to Brock mentioning several times that new material was in the works. So now that new MM is here, does it harken back to the oddities of early material or fit more snuggly with the last two albums? The answer is actually kind of in-between. You have the production and the more radio friendly tracks like “Lampshades on Fire” along with some experimental numbers. The net result is positive, but there, like the past two albums, are some bumps along the way.
Things start off nicely with the chill title track, “Strangers to Ourselves”, leading into “Lampshades” which most have heard by now. Things continue with the very nasty (literally and figuratively) “Shit in Your Cut”. This is not radio-friendly material, but it works and feels more like old-school Mouse.
Then we hit a massive bump with “Pistol”. Perhaps some will find this odd ball a success, but it feels like the scraps of a Das Racist bit song. The good news is this is the only true misfire. There are other tracks that don’t stand out but they also don’t offend either. Plus, there is plenty of good.
One of the earlier releases, “The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box”, is still a killer, power track. The folky, acoustic-driven “Coyotes” is placed nicely about midway through the album. “Pups to Dust” might be an acknowledgment that they did fall on an odd trajectory and ended up modern “rock stars”. The refrain of “how do we get here” along with “I’m so anxious” might indicate that the band has shot passed its comfort zone.
Overall Strangers to Ourselves is a success. There are enough oddities like “Sugar Boats” and enough modern-era sounding songs that makes this feel like the bridge album between the old and the new – one that was eight years in the making.
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