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Modest Mouse - Strangers To Ourselves (Album Review)

Friday, 20 March 2015 Written by James Ball

It has been many, many years since Modest Mouse last surfaced. ‘We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank’ dropped in 2007 and, since then, there have been some wilderness years. The hype slowly started to dissipate. Could their return produce an album as good as its predecessor? Well, 'Strangers To Ourselves' good, but it’s not earth-shatteringly good.

The title track is a real slow-burner, almost Floyd-esque, and casts an intriguing shadow across the piece until Lampshades on Fire burns it away in a punchy, deeply satisfying fashion.

There is precious little to dislike here, and it’s clear at this point that Isaac Brock hasn’t lost any of the craftsmanship that made Modest Mouse one of the world’s most beloved indie bands. If you’re still sceptical, you won’t be by the end of the emotive, sexy, and frankly filthy Pistol. Four songs in and each one vastly different, but quintessentially Modest Mouse.

It comes as no surprise that this theme continues, ranging from the delicate and wistful Ansei to dancefloor-filler The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box, a song that Franz Ferdinand will be kicking themselves for never writing. Wicked Campaign sounds like a lost Stellastarr* song and that, for anyone who misses that band, is a wonderful thing.

Brock’s vocal prowess is put to the test throughout as he has to adjust to each new challenge placed before him, but he can pseudo-shout with the best of them before switching seamlessly into a soft, gentle alto.

Sadly, though, when a band is generous enough to offer a whopping 15 tracks on an album, some of them are bound to be a little naff. Pups To Dust, if it were slower, would be a beautiful ballad and if it were faster it would be a toe-tapper. As it is, though, it’s stodgy and directionless. Sugar Boats is a fantastic, energetic piece of oom-pah, but should have ended with a cymbal crash rather than 30 shocking seconds of faux-metal. Be Brave, too, is little more than dull.

The album’s closer is required to salvage things and Of Course We Know is designed as a classic sunset festival set closer. It’s big. It’s got twinkly piano and crashing drums. It quickly fades away, leaving us begging for just one more song.

In short, while this is not a perfect slice of the Modest Mouse cake, it is more meaningful, inventive and engaging than a lot of what passes for guitar music these days. While the band do not do anything they haven’t done before, they still do a lot that other bands won’t. Eight years later, we’ve got a record that was worth the wait.

Modest Mouse Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sun July 05 2015 - BIRMINGHAM Institute
Tue July 07 2015 - MANCHESTER Ritz
Wed July 08 2015 - LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds
Thu July 09 2015 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 Academy Newcastle
Fri July 10 2015 - GLASNEVIN Helix - Mahony Hall

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