Besides successfully following up their 2004 popular/commercial/major-label breakthrough (Good News for People Who Like Bad News) with the insistently idiosyncratic art-punk-pop of We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (Epic), Modest Mouse's big news of the last year was the full-time addition of former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. His jangly, angular guitar is all over the peculiarly maritime-themed tunes on Sank, adding a subtly incandescent dimension to the Reticent Rodent's enduring blend of quirkily verminated genres. They range from the folky "Missed the Boat" to the dance-rock synthesis of "We've Got Everything," the Captain-Beefheart-at-the-disco "Florida," the fractured industrial punk of "Steam Engenius," and the Mekons-like inebriated sea chantey "March into the Sea." Through it all, lead singer Isaac Brock shifts gears with schizophrenic glee. From guttural spit to silky croon and most stops in between, he sifts through lyrics rife with clever ambiguities, running the gamut from cryptic to off-handedly fatalistic and impishly playful. What keeps the ship afloat is the band's natural buoyancy, which unearths optimism even in the face of rampant despair. As Brock howls in the hook-laden "Dashboard," "It wasn't quite as bad as it could've been."
Mon., Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m., 2007