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March 26, 2007 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

God, was I relieved to hear Isaac Brock’s maniacal laugh.

We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sunk, Modest Mouse’s fifth album came after much finger-twiddling in anticipation. And it did not fail to fully blow me away.

With another verbose title, We Were Dead is their third Epic (Sony) release. While they began on indie labels, 2004’s super successful Good News For People Who Love Bad News saw there was no going back to their roots.

Mainstream radio liked them.

The band has doubled in size since its beginnings, and instrumentation on We Were Dead includes horns, strings, organs and accordion. It also sees the return of original drummer Jeremiah Green and the addition of Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, and The Shins’ James Mercer lending backing vocals for a few tracks.

The first few listens of this new album had me smiling smugly, believing they had reverted back to the old erratic, spastic, often inaccessible Modest Mouse I fell in love with, but the more I listen, the catchier it gets – in the radio friendly way.

Despite this, it’s still Modest Mouse – so it’s still incredible. It’s full of pop hooks, their signatory jangley, dance-inducing guitar, teamed with Brocks rambling, erratic, paranoid vocals. Tracks like ‘Florida’ show they still pull off their signatory clashing, bashing madness then quickly contrast it by dropping to their introspective, melodic, bordering sinister side.

The other signature sound that was particularly used in Good News, and makes strong appearances on We Were Dead, is their danceable, upbeat, syncopated indie-pop such as ‘Dashboard.’

And, like in the vein of Moon and Antarctica there are a few softer, introspective moments, such as the dreamy, restrained, shoe-gazing, sounds of ‘Steam Engenius’. From opening ‘March into the Sea’ to closing ‘Invisible’, We Were Dead is another fine, weird, varied, outstanding release – albeit more accessible than their earlier work their legend is founded on. Either way, if it makes it to the cursed top-forty list, I will be surprised, but will try to fight those negative feelings – as a band this good deserve all the success they can get.


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