Not only is it one of the best records of the nineties, but Modest Mouseís debut record, This is A Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About is probably one of the most emotional, self reflecting debut albums of all time. The whole album is the first in three of Modest Mouseís epic mid-western road trip albums. Known for its corn, potatoes, mountains and not much else the mid-western United States is often the best inspiration for an extremely depressed band such as Modest Mouse. When a man sees nothingness for such a long time he is likely to explode, as lead singer Isaac Brock does on this record. Claustrophobia laced songs build up the majority of this album. Depression builds upon songs of insanity and distorted guitars. Even by track #2, ďBreak Through", listeners are subjected to Brockís full force. When I listen to Break Through I picture a night at a cheap inner city hotel before continuing the trip home or away from home, but Brockís raspy yelps and screaming laziness show more a boy trying to find his place in the world over a hard-rocking older male. Listeners who were bored with hearing musicians brag and/or complain ate up Brockís attitude and his bandís fast paced warped noise pop sound. Isaac became the voice for a generation that he wanted nothing to do with. But unlike Kurt Cobain, Issac took over his stature with creativity and non-suicidal tendencies, while remaining as depressive as they come (until Float On at least). Though none of their records would ever surpass the genius that is This is A Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About.
This being said a sprawling country song like Custom Concern would not find its way onto an album like Modest Mouseís post road trip records, the Moon & Antarctica or Good News for People Who Love Bad News. Perhaps itís because those albums are not as raw as this one, or because they were written in a more stable environment. Country music isnít called country music for nothing. Dust drenched prairies, no vegetation and weeping acoustic guitars are more inspiration to MM then their music might show, but donít get fooled, Modest Mouse can get absolutely ferocious when need be. Beach Side Property is a Pixies-esque tune full of longing and desperation. It is perhaps, drum-wise, the most impressing piece of work on the album, for the first half at least. By the time the halfway mark rolls around the feeling throughout the song is one of failure and the understanding of something that will never be. Musically Modest Mouse is the standard indie band from the nineties, theyíve got enough talent to sell themselves as musicians, but the real genius of This is a Long DriveÖ lies in the songwriting. Guitaristís Dann Galluci and Brock himself pull together simple riffs and melodies. Talking Shit About a Pretty Sunset relies purely on the chord changes to keep it interesting through the ending minutes. Using drastic changes make the slowest of tunes pop out even when you dismiss them as boring orchestral numbers; Brock knows this and uses it to a great extent. Album opener Dramamine is a drug ballad of epic proportions, as mentioned previously it is crafted upon the unforgettable opening riff, a lightly chorused, heavily reverbed ascent up the fret board. Itís melodic and sleepy, but holds up the song underneath the depressed wails of a man after the break-up and on the road.
Unfortunately Dramamine faces the same fate as a lot of the album, something that could be described as its biggest downfall. Songs seem to drag on for ever, most of the songs run under two minutes or over 4:30, the short ones are a tad disappointing and the lengthy ones often feature one to two minute instrumental sections. While a section like this may be perfect for a depressed drive it seems a bit much for someone sitting in their living room. Other than this, songs rarely falter, Besides maybe Ohio and Exit does not Exsist, but oddities like Dog Paddle are fairly hard to listen to, even if they are great. Issac describes his bandís sound straight on with the strange genius of Head South, ďA surf rock band, with no surf, just pine trees" says he, before screaming ďHead South, Head South" along with a womanís voice and another deep voiced singer (a la Flaming Lipís Talking Bout the Smiling Death Porn Immortality Blues). The lyrics are ripped straight from the indie rock guide to selling out, and make up one of the most abrasive, but stunningly beautiful tunes on the record.
Issac has a fairly raw voice, even in the world of indie rock. Smoking has taken itís tole on his vocal cords and beer on his heart. While the previously mentioned Dog Paddle and the frantic punk gem, Tundra/Desert show how ravaged Isaacís voice is, ballad time songs such as Novocain Stain or Dramamine show its beautiful qualities. By the end of the album he has the listener in the palm of his hand, Issac says things the right way and can relate with every one. Movieís have been trying to show what post high school life is like, getting a job, moving away, being bored and lonely etc. for years (i.e. the coming of age flick), but this album does it better than any of them. Isaacís character are as paranoid and claustrophobic as any pill-popping alcoholic, but as loveable as a childís teddy bear. The story is easy to trace because the songís wear their emotions on their sleeves, even if the vocals are difficult to understand. Overall itís an interesting journey through places I have never been, the pine covered mountains of the North West, and the bleached blonde streaks of southern California, the suburban wastelands of Ohio and even to the moon. To keep this reviewís ending short, This is a Long DriveÖ is a superb album in every sense of the word, 4.7/5.
this is in my opinion Modest mouse's best album. i listened to this album for so long that wenever i went to wright a song on guitar it would end up being something off of this CD. this record is the one that defined there sound early on and they stuck with it for a good 5 or 6 more cd's. good news is one of the cd's that was created to please the listener instead of producing brooding heart felt music. i love this cd because i can really relate with the lyrics and common theme resonating throughout the whole cd. you can call it emo if you want but modest mouse is lacking one thing that emo music exells in, mind numbing rock guitar licks with disapointingly bad whiney vocals and lyrics. this is an awesome cd for any modest mouse lover or fallower of Isaac brock. if your into isaac brocks music and you like this i would sujest sad sappy sucker and sharpen your teath by ugly casanova. ugly casanova is a side project that isaac brock did with a hand full of other lesser known musicians. it's good stuff highly recomended for the apretiator of peotry
that was a really awesome and insightfull review, i added my piece before i read it. i was always wondering why i always find myself listening to this cd when im on the road for a long time, now i know. did they actually make it on a road trip?
Great review, this album desperately needed one.
The first three tracks are mindblowingly good, and even a few songs after that are great listens. I think the main reason why I don't think this album is that good is because by the end of the album I think that Modest Mouse recycle to many ideas and a few tracks drag on for way to long (hint hint: Talking Shit About a Pretty Sunset and Ohio.)
I can see how many people like the new album more than this, but I surley don't. I think this album takes a little time to get into, when I first listened to some of the songs they paled in comparisin to some of the stuff off the Moon and Anarctica and Good News, but are slowly becoming alot better. I don't consider Modest Mouse "overated" but I can see where this idea comes from, I also very much understand Zebra's point of view on this album. Thanks for all the comments, and especially the votes.
Man, this and Lonesome Crowded West have been making up a good portion of my playlist this weekend. Too damn good.
I always think I have this overrated, until I listen to it again and it blows me away.