TAKING A LOOK over Modest Mouse's deep discography, one starts to wonder whether these Seattle boys have ever had "real" jobs. This is their second LP (and their second one to clock in around 70 minutes); they have two EPs, which are as long as most other bands' albums; and they're rapidly approaching the release of their fourth and fifth singles. With that many songs (59 by my count), it's hard to envision a punkish band like Modest Mouse managing to keep their music from sounding stale. Surprisingly, they keep it new. No longer can they be pegged as a second cousin of contemporaries like Built to Spill, or as the mere offspring of influences like the Pixies. These bands are obviously relevant reference points, but MM has certainly come into its own. By the 10th song on their new record they haven't even flirted with that perfunctory "OK, I get the point" feeling one gleans from so many (long) indie records. They do, however, flirt with the familiar feeling of comfort that comes through bathing one's self in warm, shimmery guitar tricks and Jeremy Green's brilliant drumming.
Equal parts grace and vitriol, Modest Mouse displays a new, slightly more aggressive side on The Lonesome Crowded West than on any work to date. Singer Isaac Brock spits out rabid, self-effacing, melancholic phrases ("I drink away/the part of the day/I can't sleep away") while the music stomps and stammers in a vulnerable reverb haze. Sometimes reminiscent of the bastard child of a ferocious Joy Division, with vocals suggesting a more patient version of art-noisers Circus Lupus, The Lonesome Crowded West occasionally veers, ever so slightly, into metal-ville, especially on the rocker "Shit Luck." Yet, the Mouse obviously don't have Judas Priest in their musical vocabulary--there's no risk of the band getting too wanky. And yes, there are plenty of two-minute rockers thrown in for the kiddies. Here's to hoping the boys don't ever get those real jobs.
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