Review Summary: The new Modest Mouse is on show; featuring a new direction that, oddly enough, is very similar to their old stuff.
We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank was he highly anticipated new release from Modest Mouse; now armed with the British national treasure, Johnny Marr (formerly guitarist and songwriter with the Smiths).
Marr's presence is definitely noticable, yet the album is still mainly Brock driven - which is a good thing. Songs seem to be the usual MM, yet, we here more complex, jangling Rickenbacker driven guitars floating around the edges; making MM sound a lot more grown up. Moreover, the sound quality of the album seems higher, making it more appealing.
As others have, I'm going to go through, song by song. Yet, I'm trying to be impartial.
1. March Into The Sea
Definitely a good opening song. It's not very often that MM do a song in 3/4 so its good to have some variation. The variety of instruments also provide some other pleasures for the listener. Brock's idio-synracies are present again on vocals, and the large soundng percussion is also there, from the two drummers.
Yes yes it's the new Float On, but I love both of these songs. Why should we change our opinion on songs because of their popularity? I think Dashboard is a very good song; with legato trumpets, and Marr's squeaky clean guitar. I have no problem with this song, and it is a superb uplifting anthemic song.
3. Fire It Up
Another new song of MM that takes a new direction. With it's slow tempo, it chuggs along and never gives in. Once again, a wider variety of instruments are here to give the song a new feel, and Brock seems fairly restrained here. Sounds completely different through headphones (far bassier).
More old-style MM, yet we still hear Marr's influences coming through with the tighter sounding guitar. Not much more to say about this song, than a good upbeat track that is well written, and well produced. The tempo change is a good choice I feel.
5. Parting Of The Sensory
This is where we get to hear the new MM. Brock seems very different here, becoming far more emotive and receptive to new things. This song shows that MM have taken a new direction, with more acoustic guitar and acoustic percussion, with more minimalistic sections to songs. This one is definitely more of an acoustic anthem for the album - like Bankrupt on Selling for example.
6. Missed The Boat
A lovely song; summing up the new MM really. An acoustic guitar, then in comes a big strum with reverb and chorus, then Brock plays a trademark riff with octaves. Acoustic percussion is there with a standard kit, and there's some strong backing vocals. I love this song, as it is meloncholy, yet hopeful - but is still essential MM. Lyrically brilliant, and melodically beatiful. Reminds me of summer evenings.
7. We've Got Everything
In an interview, Marr talked about the guitar based relationship that he and Brock have. It seems to be an unwritten rule now that they have a riff each that slot together brilliantly, one wouldn't fit without the other, and Marr is panned left, and Brock right. The jagged, sharp and typically mad guitars at the start of this track illustrate my point. Also, the electric snare and high backing vocals add to it. This is a great poppish song of the album and is definitely a favourite of mine.
8. Fly Trapped In A Jar
Old style MM: doubled vocals, repetitive lyrics, mental guitars, angular drums, yet, you can still tell it's of the new album. Like Fire It Up, it keeps on going and going - in a good way, and there's also that symbiotic guitar-based relationship with Marr and Brock. I thought that because they both write little riffs, they couldn't co-exist, but hell I was wrong. They SO enhance each other.
A brilliant song. Once again it chuggs along, and Marr's guitarwork is simply amazing. Lyrically, the song is good also. Another good thing about this song is that parts are layered and dropped from time to time; which really creates effect.
10. Little Motel
Simply beautiful. Brock's voice is lovely here, and the song builds and builds to become astonishing. In the 'solo', the other instruments build up and creep up on you, giving you a shiver down your spine. Again, this shows the maturity that has grown into MM; whether it be Brock whose booked his ideas up, or Marr's influence, I don't know, but this song is truly epic.
11. Steam Engenius.
Yes it's repetitive. Yes its not the most well written song ever, but I think that its a good song. Definitely a filler, but so what.
12. Spitting Venom
this song is a metaphor for MM. Everything about it is perfect and crafted in fine detail. We have the new acoustic outlook at the start, and then a little tiny guitar part comes in from Marr, and then it kicks in (and I mean kicks in) and you have that 2 guitar Brock/Marr thing. Then trumpets, and percussion and repetition and layering come in. It is truly epic. Probably my favourite Modest Mouse song.
13. People as Places as People
Brocks typical guitar harmonics are preset here, for all you old fans, yet, they are amongst some really good music> Marr introduces some nice ideas, and the lyrics are again top drawer. This song manages to be emotive and powerful at the same time.
WOW. That's it. Turn it up! You've got the whole 2 guitar thing going on again. But really, its just BOOM. What a song!
Overall, this album is truly great. Hardcore MM fans will disagree, saying that MM have been toned down and have gone soppy, but, I think its a great album, and it really shows their modernity and maturity. Highly recommended!