|By Zach Patterson||Tuesday, 11 Aug 2009|
There’s two ways to look at this new release by Modest Mouse. On one hand, it’s been two years since their last album, and this is a new 8 song EP that is very hit or miss. In that way, this EP is rather subpar. On the other hand, if you keep in mind that this EP is actually a collection of “re-polished outtakes” and B-sides from Good News For People Who Love Bad News and We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, it’s really not all that bad, considering many B-sides are completely forgettable. Regardless of how the album is perceived, the overall tone of the album is mixed and is kept afloat by a few decent songs and one truly outstanding song.
To get it out of the way immediately, “The Whale Song” is, in my opinion, the best reason to own this album. The song begins with heavy, slow, waterlogged bass line, like a ship out to sea. As the song continues, it meanders in that unique Modest Mouse way, like something from The Moon and Antarctica (see “The Cold Part” or “The Stars Are Projectors”). Then enters the plucky, twangy guitar, and soon after, you hear guitar effects that sound like some fucked up orca is talking. It’s very strange and interesting, and I’m not sure they could have picked a better song title for this song, as it just exudes a nautical feel. The song builds and builds until Brock’s voice cuts in ranting about being a scout and finding a way out and then it just really breaks loose in the last minute or so, highlighted by the aforementioned orca guitar squeals and the dual drumming intensity on the song. This is without a doubt one of my favorite Modest Mouse songs in ages.
As for the rest of the album? Well, the next best reason to have this is King Rat, a B-side from “We Were Dead…” that I had on a vinyl single but never really appreciated until this EP. What’s interesting about the song is the faux-retro absurdist feel the song has, lending a rather strong Man Man feel to the song. I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine the song with Honus Honus singing it and hear a good Man Man song, especially with the horns, scattershot transitions, and alternating shouting/singing.
The opener “Satellite Skin” is another song that’s really grown on me since the first listen. It easily has the best lyrics on the album. While I’m no expert lyric parser, it seems to be dealing with religion, as Brock weaves some great line in through the song like “You can say what you want you’re forgiven / Well happy fucking congratulations / Well everyone, everyone wins / Just like being in my own solar system / Doing good things but then totally eclipse them” and “If you sweep up this mess I’ve created
/ Nothing’s left to show I existed”. Musically, it’s rather poppy, but it’s a good opener and quality song nonetheless.
The rest of the album is a mixed bag. I genuinely dislike “Guilty Cocker Spaniels”, with Brock just babbling in a high pitch over a lame backbeat. It’s also riddled with lyrics that sound kinda stupid (shouting “Happy Halloween!” in the middle of the song? Really?). Likewise, “Perpetual Motion Machine” would be completely forgettable if it wasn’t sort of annoying, and “History Sticks To Your Feet” fails to leave an impression even after a dozen listens to the album. “Autumn Beds” and “I’ve Got It All (Most)” certainly aren’t bad songs, but definitely feel like B-sides. They are reasonably pleasant, and I could see how someone might like them, but they both kinda just play out without really coming to much of a satisfying conclusion or distinguishing themselves too much. I mention them here because the EP is so short, but if they were on either of their last two albums, they probably wouldn’t have even been worth discussing.
So yeah, mixed bag, and I have to say I’m a bit disappointed, if only because it’s been two years since they released an album and some of these songs have been floating around for 5 years. That being said, there’s a few worthwhile tracks here, and for a Modest Mouse fan, it’s worth giving it a listen at least to see if you dig it. You can check it out on Youtube.