Review Summary: Modest Mouse lets us remember how they were and not how they are.
Like many, thought few will actually admit it, I was introduced to Modest Mouse through their monumentally successful and thoroughly played out Good News For People That Like Bad News
. In retrospect many of the songs on that album were blatant Tom Waits plagiarisms veiled as off-kilter indie pop, but without it I wouldn't have delved in to the rest of Modest Mouse's back catalog and for that I owe Good News For People That Like Bad News
many thanks. Their first three full-lengths have gone on to dominate my musical palate ever since. Unfortunately for being the latecomer that I was, by the time I finally got around to seeing Modest Mouse in concert their set lists rarely even offered a glimpse of the breadth and grandeur of their earlier works. "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes" and "Trailer Trash", though amazing songs in their own right, weren't really enough to make up for the plateful of Good News...
(that was later mixed with a bit of We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank
to the same effect) that comprised of the rest of their sets. With Baron Von Bull*** Rides Again
Modest Mouse lets us remember how they were and not how they are.
Baron Von Bull*** Rides Again
was recorded a week after the release of Good News For People That Like Bad News
at a stretch of concerts at the Social in Orlando, FL, and was released two months later. Given this time frame Modest Mouse could have used Baron Von Bull***
as just another part in what would become the "Float On" hype machine, but luckily only one song from Good News...
, "The Good Times Are Killing Me", is found on the album. Instead most of the cuts are from 2000's The Moon & Antarctica
and the B-Side and Rarity compilation Building Nothing Out of Something
. For those looking for material from the earliest reaches of Modest Mouse's career, you're out of luck. "Bankrupt on Selling" and "Doin' the Cockroach" from their sophomore release Lonesome Crowded West
are as far back in time as Modest Mouse go on Baron Von Bull***
. In all fairness it would have been nice to get at least a song from their debut or another song like "Trailer Trash", "Cowboy Dan", "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes" or any of the numerous other fan favorites that are absent from what is Modest Mouse's only official live recording, but the performances that were culled for Baron Von Bull***
are more than enough for an outstanding release.
Just like any other live album its the little things that make or break it, because if their wasn't anything new or worthwhile captured in the live setting most people would prefer to listen to the album versions of the songs. The extended cuts of "I Came As A Rat" and "Doin' the Cockroach" are filled with the same loose energy and raw power that have come to personify Modest Mouse's signature jams. "I Came As A Rat" builds into a monumental crescendo that lets loose directly into the opening musings of "Doin' the Cockroach". At the end of "Paper Thin Walls" Isaac Brock's retort to a heckle of "FREEBIRD!!!" is almost worth the price of the CD alone. It turns into a rant where Isaac ends up imparting some of the greatest advice ever given at a concert: life is too short to play or hear "Freebird". Even with this rant in consideration, the most surprising part of Baron Von Bull***
is "Bankrupt On Selling". The original version of the song was given a lo-fi production which made it as sterile as it was somber. The live setting breathes new life into it with Isaac Brock's pleadingly earnest vocals and the addition of one of the most depressing yet uplifting guitar solos ever to be put to tape.
Just as "The Good Times Are Killing Me" acts as a bookend for Isaac Brock's substance abuse issues, Baron Von Bull***
acts as a bookend for the first half of Modest Mouse's career making "The Good Times Are Killing Me" the perfect song to close out Baron Von Bull***
. With the release of Good News For People Who Like Bad News
Modest Mouse moved in a more commercially pleasing direction but at least they were kind enough to give their past work the send off it deserved with Baron Von Bull*** Rides Again