Don’t be turned off by the description for this album of “B-Sides." The material on No One's First And You're Next sounds nothing like left overs. These songs are fresh, lively, and a welcome addition to the already illustrious Modest Mouse catalog
What a journey indie-rock Gods Modest Mouse have been on. Few bands can say they’ve shared a similar path. The Seattle-based group prospered from the praise of critics and garnered a large following of passionate listeners with their 1997 release, This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About. Unlike many of their contemporaries, Isaac Brock and the rest were able to make the jump, unscathed, to more mainstream success in 2001 when they signed with Sony Records. Since then, they’ve sold a little over 3 million records while still retaining many of their original followers. This is no easy task. Rarely can a band, in this genre especially, follow this path without obtaining the dreaded “sell-out” label. But I digress; this is all just history, right? Wrong. Modest Mouse’s latest release finds them looking back into their past and pulling a piece from here and there, and some influence from just about everywhere. A bit of an anomaly in the indie spectrum, a Modest Mouse record is always one I look forward to hearing- and No One’s First And You’re Next was no let down, to say the least.
Don’t be turned off by the description for this album of “B-Sides” from Good News For People Who Like Bad News and We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. The material on NOFAYN sounds nothing like left overs. These songs are fresh, lively, and a welcome addition to the already illustrious Modest Mouse catalogue. They’re not dropping any old habits here. Their sound, however consistent, remains reminiscent of old This Is A Long Drive... days. The melodies remain relatively simple. The drumming remains superb, but not overwhelming. Isaac Brock’s raw, raspy, and abrasive vocals remain the driving force behind every song. Oh, and did I mention the songwriting?... because it also remains as spot-on as always. “The Whale Song,” which would’ve fit in nicely on any of their earlier albums, exhibits Brock lamenting their newfound fame with a conceit to a whale. While this isn’t the same despondent Isaac of This Is A Long Drive..., he still manages to keep the listener interested and wanting more.
No One’s First And You’re Next displays Modest Mouse as they reminisce styles of their past. They hit it all: from the soft and sanguine, (“Satellite Skin”, “Autumn Beds”) to the more gritty and rough (“King Rat”) to the undeniably catchy (“Guily Cocker Spaniels”) to “Perpetual Motion Machine” with its well-placed horns and Brocks bouncy voice. The only thing I can recall absent is Brock’s screaming, which is oh-so prevalent on fan favorites like “*** Luck.” Oh well, you won’t hear me complaining. The lack of yelling and Brock’s more content, subdued songwriting leads me to believe that fame and fortune may very well garner happiness, despite the aphorism.
The truth is, No One’s First And You’re Next leaves little to complain about, especially for a B-Sides album. Modest Mouse have addressed some of their past annoyances like the too long/too short song length. My biggest complaint would have to be the lack of “flow” that’s been very consistent on previous albums, but that’s very expected, if not inherent, on an album of B-Sides. In the same vein, you won’t be seeing any growth or expansion, as it limited by the fact that these were all recorded some time ago. Despite these obvious limitations, Modest Mouse manage to create an album of solid songs, even some of their best in a while (i.e. “The Whale Song” or another throwback to older material, “I’ve Got It All(Most).” What else can you really ask for?
The Whale Song
We’ve Got It All(Most)
Guilty Cocker Spaniels