Review Summary: "...should be checked out by everyone with an interest in some of the best lyricism and fascinating sounds in independent music."
Modest Mouse are an alternative rock band from Issaquah, Washington, whose intriguing sound and introspective lyrics demand the listener's attention, and clinch it in their fists as if it were emotional putty. “Interstate 8” is one of the band's first releases with any element of production, abandoning the sound of the psychotic disjointed 4-track confessionals “Tube-Fruit, All Smiles and Chocolate” and “Uncle Bunny Faces”. Containing five “studio” recordings and 6 live recordings from Isaac Brock's garage in Issaquah, (although the live section is titled “Live in Sunburst Montana”), the EP clocks in at 56 minutes of raw, emotional, crooked independent rock.
Opening up with the bent chords and twinkly guitar of title-track “Interstate 8”, Isaac's momentarily soft and fragile voice “I'm on a road shaped like a figure 8/I'm going nowhere but I'm guaranteed to be late” evolves into a dissonant jam with Jeremiah Green's steady yet cacophonous drumming. The second track, “All Nite Diner” (borrowing it's title from Santo & Johnny's classic '59 hit, but we'll get back to that later) is a strange, drunken psalm with Isaac Brock constantly belting out the lyrics “Have I told ya/You could really get it on"”. Moving onto the next song; “Sleepwalking” (once again from Santo & Johnny, although this track is almost a cover of sorts) is a quiet love ballad using soft arpeggios and male/female vocals which is a pretty large contrast to the 4th track “Tundra/Desert” which starts as a slow croon and escalates pretty quickly with an “Awwwwwww ***!” into a noisy blast. “Edit The Sad Parts” is a 9 minute bendy,manic-depressive anthem starting with “Sometimes all I want to feel is love/Sometimes I'm angry that I feel so angry” and one of my personal favorite lines “If You stand in a circle/Then you'll all have a back to bite”. The track closes with a few minutes of silence just as the “Live In Sunburst Montana” segment starts.
The 6th track of this EP is an early live version of the song “Beach Side Property” which hits the ground running with several lines containing Isaac's iconic battle-cry. “Buttons To Push The Buttons” opens with bouncy muted guitars and ends with the slightly nihilistic “Do-Si-Do to the front of the class and you're given thoughts of happiness”. The 8th track titled “Novocain Stain” which, along with “Beach Side Property”, really shines it's respective studio recording on the band's first full length “This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About”; but the recording on “Interstate 8” does the song relative justice. “Broke”, which is truly mastered on the compilation album “Building Nothing Out Of Something” is a sparkly hymn of regret and depression (I mean, what else did you expect"). As the album nears it's closer, the track “Whenever You Breathe Out, I Breathe In” is a gleefully sad dissection of horrible depression. The final track on the EP is an awesome live rendition of “Edit The Sad Parts”, not much different than the original.
Essentially, Modest Mouse's “Interstate 8” is an intimate yet loud, beautiful but hazy, alternative rock milestone. Isaac's wide range of vocal styles and drowsy guitar playing match perfectly to Jeremiah Green's perfectly wild drumming and Eric Judy's tight, traveling bass lines. Looking back on Modest Mouse's discography, “Interstate 8” is but a blip on the radar for an incredible band who went on to make several of the best albums of the 90's and 00's. A blip that should be checked out by everyone with an interest in some of the best lyricism and fascinating sounds in independent music.