Review Summary: Modest Mouse mastermind Isaac Brock creates an introspective acoustic record with a handul of gems
Two years after the release of what is arguably their classic in The Moon and Antarctica, Modest Mouse front man Isaac Brock gave his shot at a side project and released an album under the moniker Ugly Casanova on Sub Pop. Sharpen Your Teeth
is a varied record consisting of some of the most poignant lyrics Brock has written and a handful of brilliant songs, but scattered in the batch are a few slip-ups, some due to length or repetitiveness, others to being almost too experimental to be enjoyable, but nevertheless interesting.
Sharpen Your Teeth is very much a personal and introspective record, but that is where the similarities with Modest Mouse end. Other than the familiarity of Brock’s unique vocals and signature drug influenced lyrics about the space, loneliness, and the afterlife, Ugly Casanova is very much different than anything he has done. In the dozen songs presented, styles fluctuate between the calm, soothing acoustic ballads to the unconventional side of Isaac Brock, with an eclectic use of instruments throughout.
Where Sharpen Your Teeth
flourishes is on its calm, dreary acoustic songs where it is mainly just Brock and a guitar complete with his allusions to nature and surrealistic descriptions. In possibly the records brightest outing, Cat Faces
, Brock sings “Swallows drop in, and dash the sky; Tracing lines of cursive on the horizon” over minimalist guitar strums. So Long to the Holidays
adds percussion and backing vocals into the mix, and at almost six minutes shows a wandering, instrumental side with lyrics taking a backseat. Smoke Like Ribbons
is akin to the aforementioned songs but has Brock singing more up-tempo and cheerily which is a welcome change in a sea of somberness.
Brock’s work is not the most accessible at times and Sharpen Your Teeth has areas that are no exception. Spilled Milk Factory
is an oddity in the set with its bluesy background and high pitched, layered vocals which makes for an interesting listen but might not have you coming back to it often. Ice on the Sheets
, despite its groovy rhythm, suffers from being overly long without change and Brock's vocals which sound as though sung through a loud muffled speaker. Parasites
probably most resembles a Modest Mouse number, with Brock's clear and dominant singing, a catchy acoustic riff and an effective use of horns. Diamonds on the face of Evil
, which could pass for a Tom Waits song, stands out with rugged vocals over a backdrop that wouldn’t be out of place on Rain Dogs
One distinct quality of Sharpen Your Teeth
is there is no song that goes unnoticed or is just “there”, because either they stand out for the better, worse, or simply because you just haven’t heard a song like it before. The only thing that could have done without is the forgettable 49 second interlude Beesting
With Sharpen Your Teeth Isaac Brock puts forth some of his most artistic and thought provoking work. Despite some missteps, Sharpen Your Teeth
boasts a handful of gems. Big fans of Modest Mouse should have no reason not to like this, as this is classic Isaac Brock, but newcomers interested might want to try some early Modest Mouse albums before venturing into Ugly Casanova.
So Long to the Holidays