Title - 'We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank' (Sony)
Artist - Modest Mouse
Human beings are strange creatures! Despite our upbringing, we often end up charting our own path. Sometimes out of rebellion, sometimes out of passion, sometimes it's just because it feels right. Modest Mouse is a band that you listen to because it feels right. Nothing about Modest Mouse would appeal to your parents, who, if you were lucky, raised you on music like The Beatles. So when you hear Isaac Brock barking his way through an album, your gut instinct is to turn a deaf ear, dismissing what you hear as anything but music. But at the same time, when it's packaged with the manic instrumentation and unadulterated musicianship of Modest Mouse, something about it pulls you in and make you forget everything you're supposed to know about music. It just feels right.
Modest Mouse has kept their unique sound going for over a decade, long before MTV started taking notice. Fortunately for fans, the unexpected success of "Good News for People Who Love Bad News" and subsequent "it-band" status did not result in a sacrificing of the band's sound. "We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank" continues what the band started a long time ago, yet at the same time still feels fresh.
"Spitting Venom" is epic in it's length and it's ambition. Beginning with an almost Decemberists-esque guitar riff, Brock tones down his vocals to sing, "You were spitting venom at most everyone you know. If you truly knew the gravity you would know which way to go." 1 1/2 minutes into the track, the song hits full stride as the full band comes in like a pile driver to accompany what was once a subtle song.
"Education" once again finds Brock barking through the song, yet it manages to be one of the best songs on the album, despite the fact that you may need a translator to understand what the lyrics are. But this is one of the great things about Modest Mouse. Confusing as it may be, when Brock is at his "worst," the band is at their best. Brock's energy collides with the band's energy and together they produce an amazing sound, albeit a perplexing one. The song "Fly Trapped in a Jar" is a perfect example of this. The song's energy is through the roof, and the band is doing what they do so well that it's hard not to bang your head or tap your toes in syncopation. Accordingly, when Modest mouse tones down the energy, as they do in "Little Motel," it's often to less-than-optimal results.
Other highlights on the album include "We've Got Everything," in which Brock croons, "We've got everything down to a science." The Shins' James Mercer lends his vocals here, as he does on "Florida" and "Missed the Boat," the latter of which features the artist singing the chorus so beautifully that one can't help but hold out hope that this album won't mark his last appearance with the band. The album ends with the uber-frenetic pace of "Invisible," a song that should finally put to rest any suspicion of "selling-out." Brock is at his best here, utilizing his half-singing, half-screaming vocals to their fullest extent before being subdued by a steadily-rocking guitar solo courtesy of new guitarist, Johnny Marr.
Overall, "We Were Dead before the Ship Even Sank" is no huge departure for Modest Mouse. It feels very polished and complete. As always, they manage to captivate their audience and hold their attention well after the album wraps up. For long-time Modest mouse fans, there's not a whole lot to dislike about the album, despite a few songs in which the band feels like they're playing it a little too safe. It's all good music, whether your parents would agree or not. And even if the album doesn't meet the same success as it's predecessor, it is still quite an achievement; and one worth revisiting over and over again.
Recommended for fans of Modest Mouse, Franz Ferdinand, and anyone who missed the boat the last time it came around.