Published Mar 13, 2015If ever an artist were to plan an eight-year wait between releases, following Modest Mouse's lead would be a wise move. Not that anyone should ever aspire to such a thing, but while it's taken Isaac Brock and company nearly a decade to follow up 2007's We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, the band have done an admirable job remaining in our consciousness through consistent touring, reissuing old material and giving updates from the studio.
Like their other three Sony full-lengths, Strangers to Ourselves is an ambitious studio album that suggests there was a lot of thinking and tinkering done. Surprisingly, with five producers credited, the 15 songs aren't as disjointed a bunch as they should be. And boy, are these songs disparate.
Despite no sign of Big Boi, who at one point was rumoured to be producing the album, Brock tries his own hand at mutant hip-hop with "Pistol"; it might sound more like Primal Scream than OutKast, but in reproducing Billy Squier's "The Big Beat," its weirdness is definitely reminiscent of the ATL duo.
They continue to mess with convention on the burning disco of "The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box," the possessed ragtime roll of "Sugar Boats," the space cowboy journey "God Is an Indian and You're an Asshole" and the James Mercer-assisted "Wicked Campaign," which integrates programmed beats and new age synths into the mix. As they proved early on in their career on The Lonesome Crowded West's hip-hop-leaning "Heart Cooks Brain," however, Modest Mouse have always been a never-ending music experiment.
Fans afraid of change should fear not, though. As weird as Brock likes to make it, he also remembers to keep a fine balance. "Pups To Dust," "Shit In Your Cut" and "Coyotes" all sound like polished versions of the band's Up catalogue, while "The Best Room" and "Lampshades On Fire" nicely evoke the band's swelling, widescreen singles for Epic.
Only two of the albums in Modest Mouse's oeuvre are truly worth waiting eight years for: 1997's The Lonesome Crowded West and 2000's The Moon & Antarctica. And while it can't quite live up to those benchmarks, Strangers to Ourselves is everything a Modest Mouse album should be in 2015: a bold, far-reaching and determined work that continues Brock's journey creating music both accessible and eccentric. (Glacial Pace)