Modest Mouse
The Moon & Antarctica


4.0
excellent

Review

by something vague USER (16 Reviews)
November 23rd, 2005 | 26 replies | 5,162 views


Release Date: 2000 | Tracklist


5 of 5 thought this review was well written

While Modest Mouse may be one of the most revered indie bands of the '90s and so forth (at least in hindsight), it's more than humbling to actually listen to their music without those superflous remarks toting albums beyond their respective 'rankings'. Although Isaac Brock writes and sings with dazzling confusion - abstract expressionalism perhaps, at most - I feel welcome. The tone of his voice, how the pitch of his voice rises and falls, his sometimes indecipherable warble; it's all good in my book. You could say his presence is humbling, despite the bleak lyrical content that he seems to be familiar with by now. That's really just an understatement at most - he's just damn cool. The Moon & Antarctica just may be the closest that Modest Mouse will ever come to the debatle institution known as 'classic'. The whole title, cover art, concept, and so on reek of an album that is larger than it really tries to be. ***, it's David and Goliath jammed into a plastic disc, and it doesn't even know it.

While all of that 'classic' mumbo-jumbo is just dandy, there is a lot more to The Moon & Antarctica then just the music itself (well, not really). This thingy here also happens to be Modest Mouse's major-label debut, often considered an indie taboo, despite the irony that's all nimbly bimbly in there somewhere. Maybe Epic got it right though; the production is top-notch and nothing but. It's clear and concise, but there is also a healthy amount of space between the instruments and Isaac Brock's oft-layered voice. Not only this, but they have also reached beyond typical studio techniques, embracing typical newfound studio techniques instead: backwards tape effects, multiple guitar tracks, mysterious noises and waves of unintelligable sounds. Jeremiah Green's drumming veers from relaxed to robotic stuttering, close enough to a drum machine to convince you that Modest Mouse somehow wanted to make rave music ("Tiny Cities Made of Ashes"). Oh, and there's Eric Judy, another prominent member of the band (they all are, silly). His bass playing is usually clear, inducing a free-spirted dance party in our little ear drums. But, summarizing the band members does nothing more than give you a depiction of the member's duties in the band, which is actually pretty loose for once. Whatcha gon' do about it?

On The Moon & Antarctica, Modest Mouse tackle a wide range of issues that you would expect from the ever-so-philisophical Isaac Brock, and here his potent musings and questions are everywhere. Life, death, the afterlife, purity, materialism, it's all here. Isaac, though, obviously doesn't want to make his point as direct as an Oxy Clean commercial; he expresses his thoughts and burdons in a much more subtle, and somehow obvious, way. The moon and Antarctica are the only things left undiluted by the march of humanity; our constant stride for wanting more, but destroying things much more precious in the process of this. A upsetting irony, and obviously something that strikes a chord in Isaac Brock's little stringed heart. "3rd Planet" immediately introduces the imagery, as depressing as it is. The acoustic guitar strums and breezy accompaniment, along with Isaac's layered voice, are misleading in their vaguely uplifting tone. However, his thoughts on the afterlife and the earth are clear: "The third planet is sure they're being watched by an eye in the sky that can't be stopped/ When you get to the promise land, you're gonna shake that eye's hand" or "The universe is shaped exactly like the earth / If you go straight enough you'll end up where you were". The first half of the album has that same uplifting tone, one that could easily distract someone from the actual lyrical content of the songs, which contradicts the music greatly. "Gravity Rides Everywhere" sports some of the most upbeat music on the album, but that familiar content is here also ("When we die some sink and some lay / But at least I don't see you float away"), while quite a few moments of "Dark Center of the Universe" sound more like My Bloody Valentine, with warbled pitch fluctuations. What's best about it, though, is Tyler Riley's violin contributions, which there are quite a few on The Moon & Antarctica.

"Tiny Cities Made of Ashes" is one of the songs that stands out from the rest of the more atmospheric and laidback songs on the album. It's pure dance-rock: a hypnotic dance line, drum machine-like drums, synthesizer, and random guitar otubursts. Isaac goes from a muted whisper to an obnoxious, angry shout. Once again the topic seems to be debateable, with descriptions of fights, Coca-Cola, "my world is an ashtray", death, and several other bleak statements that live up to the rest of the album's path. "A Different City" rocks just as much, with a warped, chorus-happy guitar line over stuttering drums and Isaac's metaphorical writing, again (I'm watchin' t.v. I guess that's the solution / They gave me a receipt that said I didn't buy nothin'). However, the most depressing and bleak section of the album has to be right in the middle, with "The Cold Part", "Alone Down There", and "The Stars Are Projectors". This threesome give the album a bloated feeling, especially the 8 minute "The Stars and Projectors", a pretentious, overbearing summary of the album. The problem is, it's in the middle of the album, making a full listen difficult, though the flow is not corrupted by pandering mini-epics as such.

The Moon & Antarctica easily recovers from the mid-section mess. "Paper Thin Walls" is another upbeat indie-rock jaunt, another track where Isaac Brock shines through with his hasty warble, supported by backing vocals from Tim Rutilli. It's music is lightweight and breezy, unlike "The Stars and Projectors", and doesn't sound as forced as the music on "Tiny City Made of Ashes". Lyrically, it's one of the best songs on the album, where Isaac proves to be much more clever than his contemporaries ("It's been agreed that the world stinks so no one's taking a shower anymore" or " Laugh hard it's a long way to the bank"), but he also provides insight into the world, where one's business is everyone's ("Everyone's a voyeur, it's them watching me watch them watch me right now"), greed, selfishness, self-idolaztion, or perhaps a lack of individuality ("Everyone wants two of themselves and half of everyone else who's around"). "I Came as a Rat" is terrible, sounding more like Nirvana with Isaac Brock than anything else. "Lives" is plaintive, lyrically and musically, with acoustic fingerpicking and Isaac's downtrotten vocal delivery, along with more gorgeous violin from Tyler Riley.... "Everyone's afraid of their own lives / If you could be anything you want I bet you'd be dissapointed, am I right?" ..... "My hell comes from inside, comes from inside myself / Why fight this?". It would have been the perfect ending to the album, a simple summarization of the album. Maybe Modest Mouse intended to ended the album on the hyper-active, rip-roaring, Ritalin-deprived freakout "What People Are Made Of". It's confusing in that it's relevance to the rest of the album is dick.

Some bands fail miserably when they attempt to grow and expand past their earlier boundaries and limitations. Falling flat on your face for a year or two is nothing to be afraid of, if you'd like. Bob Dylan did, and he came back even better than he would have been before, right? Maybe not, but what I can say is that Modest Mouse have sucessfully crossed the barrier that seperates a juvenile understanding and a true understanding of life. Sure, there are several instances where The Moon & Antarctica becomes a pretentious and boring mess, especially in "The Stars Are Projectors" and "Life Like Weeds", but what they have accomplished with this album alone is staggering. Everything comes together perfectly, whether or not it was intended to be that way or not. Isaac Brock's lyrical depth, understanding, and his unrelenting question blooms with this album more so than on anything else that they have ever done. Musically ambitious, The Moon & Antarctica is probably the closest thing that Modest Mouse will ever get to a 'classic' album. Good News For People Who Love Bad News certainly reinforces my statement.

Human beings ain't made of nothin' more than water and shit. Right?

Recommended Songs:
"3rd Planet"
"Gravity Rides Everything"
"Tiny Cities Made of Ashes"
"Paper Thin Walls"
"Lives"




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user ratings (1808)
Chart.
4.3
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Storm In A Teacup
November 23rd 2005



12687 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Excellent review, spot on. I love Tiny Cities Made of Ashes.

No track list and picture, but I know you'll fix that.

Huh, guess I have to reveiw Good News for People Who Love Band News then. Edit: Damn Jom did it.This Message Edited On 11.23.05

Neoteric
November 23rd 2005



3243 Comments


Yay a vague review and an excellent one too.

Rudd13
November 23rd 2005



952 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Paper Thin Walls is easily one of the best indie songs I have ever heard. Great writing, Nick. I really appreciate you reviewing this one. My older sister has this but has only let me borrow it a couple times. It's time to go ask for it again, or maybe just take it.
The last album by the band was pretty damn dissapointing, and their older stuff strikes me as much, much stronger material.

Rudd13
November 23rd 2005



952 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Dead's just kiddin' *reaches for shotgun shells*

Neoteric
November 23rd 2005



3243 Comments


I like The Final Countdown

Storm In A Teacup
November 23rd 2005



12687 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Wrong picture of this album, since his review has the bonus tracks. This is the one that is blue on the front with the moon and apparently Antarctica.

innerdark
November 23rd 2005



749 Comments


[quote=cathedral]I like The Final Countdown[/quote]


the men in white coats are riiiiightaround the corner

Storm In A Teacup
November 23rd 2005



12687 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

[quote=Something Vague]Yeah, I have the one with the bonus tracks, but I didn't write about those tracks at all. It doesn't really matter which cover is used.[/quote]

I was saying cause the review had the four bonus tracks listed under the tracklist, but now it doesn't.

Zebra
Moderator
November 23rd 2005



2647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is an excellent review, a lot better than mine.

I agree with almost everything that you said, this is a 4/5 album and "Gravity Rides Everything" is my favorite track.

Jawaharal
November 23rd 2005



1832 Comments


awesome review. I need this album

Storm In A Teacup
November 23rd 2005



12687 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It certainly is one of those albums you like to listen over and over to again.

Also, this is definitely their best album, but, and I know most will disagree with me; I think that Good News For People Who Love Bad News is the bands second best album if not a tie with this actually. /puts up flame shield

masada
November 23rd 2005



2733 Comments


I can't stand Good News For People Who Love Bad News anymore. The drummer on it (Jeremiah left for a brief period) is uncreative and boring. The production is terrible; it seems like every song has two guitar tracks in seperate ears, and it sounds disjointed and too clear, a good sign of overproduction. Isaac's voice is good in some songs, but he turns to uncessary shouting which becomes obnoxious after awhile. Ironically, the more well known songs from it ("The World at Large", "Float On", "Ocean Breathes Salty") seem to be the best songs on there. The rest is either average or poor. It's kind of sad that a 50 second instrumental, "Interlude (Milo)", is better than most of the album.

/end rant

Zebra
Moderator
November 23rd 2005



2647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The Lonesome Crowded West > The Moon & Antarctica > This Is A Long Drive > Sad Sappy Sucker > GNFPWLBD

That's my opinion.

Good News was really really bad IMO. There were no good tracks and most of the songs seemed dull and uninspired, especially the useless filler songs thrown in.

Rudd13
November 23rd 2005



952 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I like the other album cover for this a lot better. The extra tracks shouldnt matter, put the other one up. I think its the original as well.

Storm In A Teacup
November 23rd 2005



12687 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It's not the original.

Rudd13
November 23rd 2005



952 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Well, its certainly a lot better.

Storm In A Teacup
November 23rd 2005



12687 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

IMO, agreed.

BTW, what does IMO mean?

Zebra
Moderator
November 23rd 2005



2647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

In my opinion

Storm In A Teacup
November 23rd 2005



12687 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Alrighty, my statement is truthful then.

safetyinnumbers
November 24th 2005



10 Comments


I like a lot of indie but I really don't "get" this band.



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