Modest Mouse
We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank


2.0
poor

Review

by Derek Marchewka USER (21 Reviews)
September 27th, 2009 | 21 replies | 3,854 views


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Modest Mouse try to be different and unique, but end up getting lost in the process.

3 of 5 thought this review was well written

There’s a fine line between being original and just plain odd, and distinguishing the two is a hard task, especially when it comes to music. There are so many ways that music is subjective, that the strangest and abstract sounds can be categorized as profound. In the ever-growing music scene, bands have so many different directions to take their music that even if the music isn’t all that good, they can hide behind their lack of songwriting if they have enough windchimes in the recording. What’s frustrating for critics is that even if when debunked, calling music out on its mediocrity is viewed as not appreciating it since it’s so different. Now of course this is only in rare cases, the music that I enjoy the most is unconventional and different to a degree. But it’s necessary to distinguish what is original and what is weird for the sake of being weird. Unfortunately I find one of these latter groups to be Modest Mouse, or at least their 2006 album We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank.

The premise of We Were Dead…’s overall sound is a little hard to pinpoint; eclectic sailor music? When I hear that description, I would hope for some jaunty, yet overall peaceful music, but that is usually the opposite of what Modest Mouse gives me. A lot of the musical elements go in opposite paths, which ends up leaving both in disarray. The drumming has a very jagged and bombastic edge to it, which really doesn’t compliment the other instruments. The guitars on most songs are very gently played and the band fiddles around with different brass and experimental instruments. The melody and rhythm sections rarely ever correlate, and the album usually becomes a chore to listen to because of this.

When also thinking about the term eclectic sailor music, the voice of which is singing should probably be one to simulate a sailor or pirate. Lead vocalist Isaac Brock fits the bill quite perfectly, but I don’t really think that’s a good thing. He has a very angry, course tone to his voice, which might compliment the loud and bashful drumming, but not much else. Whenever he’s not yelling, he is constantly trying to croon or drone in a very odd and bad way, which proves that at least on this record, he’s out of his element. Most of the songs are constantly too rough to be pleasurable, with the drums banging in an obnoxious way, and Brock trying to achieve artistic virtuosity by sounding like an annoyed gorilla. This all becomes downright annoying since the album is so long, clocking in at over an hour.

Now the reason I assume Modest Mouse are trying to be different for the sake of being different is because whenever they stop trying to be different, they actually make good music. The best songs on We Were Dead… are ones that are the most conventional. Lead single Dashboard features brass and classical instrumentation leading most of the song and actually sounds like eclectic sailor music. Little Motel is a very peaceful tune that accentuates its simplicity in a wonderful way. Even the 8 minute epic Spitting Venom builds upon layers of melody instead of just bashing rhythmically its duration. The album is also at its highpoint when Brock forgets being strange and just sings. He has a very unique tone even when he’s not shouting and yelling, and it’s a shame he didn’t realize this more.

We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank is an unfortunately messy listen. The rhythm and singing sections bog the album down by failing to be unique and original, and end up being loud and annoying. The melody section boosts the album up a little by remembering that quality can be achieved by simply writing good songs. It’s a shame the album is so incoherent, because Modest Mouse have enough quirks and originality in their sound without all the shouting and banging antics. In retrospect, Modest Mouse may not be a band that tries to be overtly strange, but on this album, they accidentally are anyways.

Recommended Tracks:
Dashboard
Missed The Boat
Little Motel
Spitting Venom*



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user ratings (1286)
Chart.
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • sumwun17 (4)
    ...

    RobbaqPL (3.5)
    Brock & co. continue their expedition into the valleys of pop, resulting in their most une...

    lwatkins (4.5)
    The new Modest Mouse is on show; featuring a new direction that, oddly enough, is very sim...

    Porter W. Richards (4)
    Modest Mouse builds on the easily digestible pop anthems from their previous album and the...

  • Beej (3.5)
    This album is certainly pure Modest Mouse: eclectic, odd, and true to their style. It isn...

    BoSoxorz (5)
    "We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank" will please the ears of old and new Modest Mouse ...


Comments:Add a Comment 
EasternLight
September 27th 2009



2700 Comments


interesting. you have as they say...balls.

kfilly20
September 27th 2009



63 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I completely disagree with you, I think this is a fantastic album, probably their least weird one other than Good News. Either way I can understand where you are coming from. Agree to disagree ....

Chewie
September 27th 2009



4531 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

well I haven't heard their other stuff so I have nothing to compare it to, but I didn't really need to either...

Athom
Staff Reviewer
September 27th 2009



17200 Comments


Modest Mouse can do no wrong imo. and also this is Modest Mouse being toned down and mainstream.

Chewie
September 27th 2009



4531 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

then I guess my issue is with the band as a whole.

Athom
Staff Reviewer
September 27th 2009



17200 Comments


just check out The Moon and Antarctica. if you don't i'll hunt you down...

Chewie
September 27th 2009



4531 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Well which one's better, Lonesome Crowded West or The Moon and Antartica, because I'm definitely willing to get into more of their stuff.

Athom
Staff Reviewer
September 27th 2009



17200 Comments


the moon and antarctica works better as a cohesive album but lonesome crowded west has better songs. when you listen to it take heed to the lyrics. EMAYZING

Chewie
September 27th 2009



4531 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

your words are overlapping, isn't that such an interesting observation that I just made because its cool to see that your words are overlapping.

Chewie
September 27th 2009



4531 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

lol and now you just fucking edited it you bastard

shade
September 27th 2009



1198 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review. TLCW is better that TM&A.

Chewie
September 27th 2009



4531 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

can you guys please pos my review? I don't mean to be a douche, but this has been up for like 6 hours and not a single vote.

Chewie
September 28th 2009



4531 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

fuck you dude

MentalityOfA
September 28th 2009



1213 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It isn't their best, but it is still very good.
I can't agree with your rating.

MentalityOfA
September 28th 2009



1213 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Just want you to know I gave you a positive vote.

Phrike
September 28th 2009



1691 Comments


Good review, great album

Zion
September 28th 2009



812 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"...He's out of his element..." having admitted to never having listened to the rest of their stuff, how exactly would you say what Brock's element is? Though this album is perhaps the most exaggerated vocally at times, he's always sounded a little "off." That's part of the appeal of his vocals. This is close to being my least favorite MM album, so I'm not bashing your rating. Just sayin'.

theTourist
February 16th 2010



95 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is a good review. I still liked the album as a whole but I agree with your analysis. Dashboard, Missed the Boat, Spitting Venom, and Little Motel are undeniably miles better than the rest of the tracks.

struth
June 19th 2011



435 Comments


This album sucks.

Psychopathologist
June 19th 2011



1924 Comments


nah its ok. decent for what it is



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