Review Summary: Sad Sappy Sucker should be a part of any hardcore Modest Mouse fan’s collection, but avoided by people who are less familiar with them.
Let me start off by saying this: If you enjoyed some of Modest Mouse’s newer work and wanted to start listening to some of their earlier music this is NOT the album you should start with. If you enjoyed Modest Mouse’s older sound and are searching for more of it, then this is exactly what you were looking for.
Although Sad Sappy Sucker was officially released in 2001, it was recorded in 1994. This was the album that was supposed to be their debut, but got pushed aside in favor of This is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing to Think About (1996). The album has a whopping 24 songs, but suprising only clocks in at a little over 34 minutes. The first 15 songs are what originally Sad Sappy Sucker was composed of, and the last 9 are from Isaac Brock’s “Call to Dial a Song” service. Only two songs crack the 3-minute mark, which makes for an interesting listen as most of Modest Mouse’s other albums contain several quite lengthy songs.
The most striking part of this album, however, is just how raw the vocals are. In the beginning of “Classy Plastic Lumber” the listener is subjected to 35 seconds of Isaac Brock’s vocals with no musical accompaniment. And while for someone unused to the vocals of Isaac Brock this may be grating, for people who have listened to large portions Modest Mouse’s work it is extremely interesting to see the vocalist this exposed. Isaac Brock’s voice was already polarizing before this album, and the record only serves to solidify this. Anyone who dislikes his vocals will have a hard, if not impossible time enjoying this album, but for people who do, this is a real treat.
Musically, the album rarely disappoints. The trippy guitar riffs are present from the start, serving as a lead-in to the abstract album opener “Bird Vs Worms.” “It Always Rains On A Picnic,” starts off with the sound of thunder and rain and then develops into a heartfelt indie tune that ends all too quickly. Power slowly builds up, and is then released all at once when Isaac Brock starts singing in one of the quicker songs on the record, “Dukes Up.” However, it’s either the rapid indie rocker opening of “Every Penny Fed Car,” or the mournful “Mice Eat Cheese,” that are the standouts of the album.
And while this release is not lyrically up to par with the rest of their work, we still get some great lines here and there. The one the stuck out in my mind the most, came from the bizarre, accordion driven (no that’s not a mistake, I meant accordion driven) “Think Long” as Isaac Brock muses “Sit and think for a while and you'll realize that you still die. / If you're not thinking at all I'm not sure why you're alive.”
The main reason I can’t give this album anything more than a 3.5, as much as I want to, is the final 9 tracks. With the shortest at :28 and the longest at 1:20, there is very little to be gleaned from these songs taken from Isaac Brock’s answering machine. They are short, dissonant (even for Modest Mouse), and quite frankly, just downright annoying. I keep these songs in my iTunes library just so I can say I have Modest Mouse’s discography, but I don’t put them on my iPod. There is no real reason to listen to these more than once.
Sad Sappy Sucker is truly a glimpse at how Modest Mouse started off. It should be a part of any hardcore Modest Mouse fan’s collection, but avoided by people who are less familiar with them.
Mice Eat Cheese
Every Penny Fed Car
It Always Rains On A Picnic
Bird Vs Worms