Modest Mouse
The Golden Casket


4.0
excellent

Review

by Sowing STAFF
June 25th, 2021 | 390 replies


Release Date: 06/25/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An unexpected triumph

When Modest Mouse began their rollout for The Golden Casket, everything pointed to it being a flop – perhaps even an unintentionally hilarious one. The lead single and arguably the worst track here, ‘We Are Between’, did little to quell concerns. Considering that Modest Mouse’s production had already slowed to a crawl (two albums in thirteen years), and that those rare releases illustrated a worrying eagerness to rehash their glory days, the band appeared primed for a slow descent into middle-aged, post-prime purgatory. The Golden Casket claws back against that sense of inevitable decay, offering a vibrant and surprisingly varied psych-pop/indie-rock fusion which sees Modest Mouse doing something they’ve refused to for the better part of two decades: change.

The aura here is totally different from the word go: ‘Fuck Your Acid Trip’ is a gritty, propulsive psych-rocker which alternates between Issac Brock’s menacingly chanted verses and sprightly, melodic choruses. Sure, it’s recognizably Modest Mouse, but it feels like a brand new chapter – one where suddenly no fucks are given and the band is out to seize the universe by the jugular. That is exactly the kind of attitude that was sorely missing from 2007’s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank and 2015’s Strangers to Ourselves, both of which existed largely within the sphere of fan service and self-tributes. On the latter LP’s closer, ‘Of Course We Know’, Brock sang “why would we ever want to wake up?” with an irony that was likely unplanned. If Strangers to Ourselves represented Modest Mouse asleep at the wheel, then ‘Fuck Your Acid Trip’ acts as a rumble strip to jolt them – and their entire post-Good News career – awake.

The same vibes of evolution can be felt across all of The Golden Casket, where Modest Mouse splash fresh, invigorating hues all over their tried-and-true sonic canvas. On a large scale, their approach is more spacious and hi-fi, opting for stunning floating arrangements and maximal pop melodies. On a smaller scale, we get a parade of gorgeous instrumental accents which simultaneously diversify and strengthen their core sound. Jubilant brass shines across the latter half of ‘We’re Lucky’ in a way I’ve never heard from Modest Mouse; ‘Leave A Light On’ sinks into a lush aqueous beat before unveiling an eerie organ; ‘Wooden Soldiers’ just has an abundance of whistling. It’s these seemingly insignificant complementary pieces which elevate The Golden Casket from “strange” to captivating, and these tiny dots eventually coalesce into one beautiful painting.

Rest assured that even amid Modest Mouse’s sonic ascension, they have not lost any of the heart, soul, or nervous energy that define who they are. They still rock out regularly, such as on the percussively driven, guitar-clad piece ‘Walking and Running’, which rachets up the momentum incrementally until it reaches a breakneck pace. There’s also ‘Back to the Middle’, which closes the album with searing electric guitars. Elsewhere, Issac Brock puts some weight behind the music with lyrics about his children (“I can’t wait to see which paths you choose”), the absence of an all-powerful deity (“I spend too much time out on the deck / Staring out at nothing while nothing at all blankly stares right back”), and the hyperpolarized political climate (“I don’t care for politics and it doesn’t care for me!”). The fear with these kinds of albums always tends to be that they’ll put aesthetic before content, but this seventh LP cleverly avoids that pitfall on all fronts.

The Golden Casket reveals itself to not only be the group’s most colorful release in quite some time, but also one of their most consistent. Modest Mouse hasn’t exactly been painting with a steady hand in recent years: for every ‘Missed the Boat’ or ‘Pups to Dust’, there’s been a ‘Pistol’ or ‘Shit in Your Cut’ to make you wonder what the hell Issac Brock and co. are doing. Here, the entire experience glows in unison. Even the weaker moments feel like they belong as part of a shared atmosphere, and that’s a crucial step for a band which has, at least of late, conditioned us to accept their releases as patchwork, mixed-bag offerings. The Golden Casket lays waste to those lowered expectations.

If there’s a knock to be made against this record – aside from the inevitable whining refrain: “but this doesn’t sound like the old Modest Mouse!” – it’s that all of the elements here tend to clash in a way that sounds busier/more cluttered than it would have to. Part of that comes with the psych-pop/hi-fi territory, but it’s nevertheless a kink that should have been ironed out in the mixing stage. The Golden Casket is an enthralling listen that breathes life into a stagnating discography, but it can be a bit overstimulating nonetheless. By the time the record winds to a close, it's difficult to decide whether that breathless feeling is from exhilaration or exhaustion – maybe it’s a little of both.

All things taken together, The Golden Casket is an unexpected triumph. It rejuvenates Modest Mouse’s formula, revealing shiny new highways to success without eliminating the same old reliable roads. It is simultaneously more optimistic, upbeat, experimental, and consistent than anything this band has done in recent memory. While it brings with it a few new shortcomings, particularly in the production department, it still makes for the band’s most exciting album in well over a decade. This might not be the exact album you’d expect from Modest Mouse, but isn’t it about time?



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user ratings (138)
3
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
Sowing
Moderator
June 25th 2021


39716 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Modest Mouse experimenting in new good ways again. Fucking finally.

Digging: Imminence - Heaven in Hiding

Ryus
June 25th 2021


26427 Comments


i cant imagine this being a 4

Digging: Rx Papi and Gud - Foreign Exchange

onionbubs
June 25th 2021


14491 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

lol did not expect the first review of this to be a positive one

Digging: Volumes - Happier?

DoofDoof
June 25th 2021


10729 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I’m amazed anyone likes this more than We Were Dead because to my ears this sounds like the worse version of We Were Dead



In other words it incorporates some mainstream indie (here Kings of Leon, LCD Soundsystem and uh, Foster the People?) and is a bit more ‘sunshine-y’ melodically speaking - almost a ‘summer album’

WatchItExplode
June 25th 2021


9399 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Buckle up boys...

Kompys2000
Contributing Reviewer
June 25th 2021


6579 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This band already put out a "summer album" and it's called Good News for People Who Love Bad News



Idk man this isn't awful or anything, Brock just doin his thing still does it for me more than most other bands in this lane ever did at their peak but so much of this is shockingly sloppy and half-formed given how long it took to make

WatchItExplode
June 25th 2021


9399 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Get ready for half-hearted, motionless performances of these tunes with Isaac singing 60% of the lyrics lighting up stages around the country this summer.

Sowing
Moderator
June 25th 2021


39716 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I was prepared to hate this

Sowing
Moderator
June 25th 2021


39716 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I don't think it's sloppy and half formed if anything they overthought and overproduced parts of this

I love it anyway

Scoot
June 25th 2021


20890 Comments


i bet it's a 3 at best

but still, at least they're still making music?

we'll always have the classics

Project
June 25th 2021


5240 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I don't know if I've ever disagreed with a Sowing review more



that said, Lace Your Shoes is quite nice



edit: i was slightly dramatic, the second half is a good bit better than the first, but the first half is pretty dreadful

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
June 25th 2021


19863 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

Nice review Sowing even if I partially disagree and actually feel a lot of these positive thoughts towards Strangers to Ourselves. Underrated and more consistently engaging than this at the least. I'm trying to keep as open a mind as I can, as they are one of my favorite indie bands based on the strengths of their first four, but I thought a lot of this was pretty aimless and uninspired; wouldn't be surprised if my rating lowers with repeated listens.

Digging: Cynic - Ascension Codes

Project
June 25th 2021


5240 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

From an Uproxx piece with Isaac: https://uproxx.com/indie/isaac-brock-interview-modest-mouse-reviews-every-album-the-golden-casket/



"I could talk for 10 hours bout just the subject of that song “Transmitting Receiving.” Anytime I start talking about this, I have to say, “I call this section ‘the tinfoil hat.'” It’s probably the most important shit that I’ve written about, which is the true scope of what’s going on with technology. Everything from gang-stalking, to fucking targeted individuals, to V2K, all the shit that goes on, is going on, and has been used on me. Someone bought all these salvaged IBM computers from the Pentagon, and in one of the banks of it there’s a top-secret thing called Silent Weapons For Quiet Wars. It’s basically the Third World War which we’ve been all participating in. But I’ll stop now."



yikes

Kompys2000
Contributing Reviewer
June 25th 2021


6579 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Based on that interview I was expecting Transmitting Receiving to be a lot more interesting than it was lol

onionbubs
June 25th 2021


14491 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

yea transmitting receiving was just complete incoherence the whole time

Kompys2000
Contributing Reviewer
June 25th 2021


6579 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

But yeah dude is seeming fully geeked lately, probably back on uppers unfortunately

Sowing
Moderator
June 25th 2021


39716 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is so much better than their last album I can't even express it adequately

Kompys2000
Contributing Reviewer
June 25th 2021


6579 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

You've seemingly expressed it by a 0.5-point score increase which strikes me as pretty adequate

Kompys2000
Contributing Reviewer
June 25th 2021


6579 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Like I have StO rated lower than you do don't make me defend it here

Project
June 25th 2021


5240 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I liked StO a lot more than I like this, but then again weren't we all different people in 2013?



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