Modest Mouse is the band that should have never been. Although the cards were stacked against it, the group prevailed for almost two decades.
Strangers to Ourselves’ release on March 13 ended an almost eight-year gap since Modest Mouse’s last album. The biggest question going into the record is one of style: Will Modest Mouse keep up the indie-rock sound that made the group famous?
The answer is pretty resounding — no. Strangers to Ourselves splits off in every direction, creating an array of experimentation that proves to be an enjoyable listen.
Modest Mouse’s early albums tackled dense subject matter. The group’s fourth album, Good News for People Who Love Bad News, brought its indie-rock sound into the mainstream.
The group’s hit songs, such as “Float On” and “Dashboard,” are infectious and still get air time on radio.
The group’s lovable alternative rock hits made the band famous, but Modest Mouse abandons this style in Strangers to Ourselves for a much more forward-thinking approach.
The band’s ambitious spirit runs throughout the entire album, especially in the rough disco-infused “The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box.”
Fans of the band’s old style would argue this track’s over-production ruins its range, simplifies its tones and creates a lack of dimension. It doesn’t build up like previous Modest Mouse hits do.
The album’s first single, “Lampshades On Fire,” is about how we’ll have to find another planet to live on after partying on Earth for too long. It’s worlds different from all of the other tracks but still blends well with the rest of the album.
The over-production of Strangers to Ourselves helps songs like “Lampshades On Fire.” Without the producers’ extensive work, this album would have felt far too disjointed instead of the psychotic collage it feels like in its current state.
Modest Mouse’s risks continue through the album, and some don’t end well. “Pistol (A. Cunanan, Miami, FL. 1996)” is a strange tale about fashion designer Gianni Versace’s killer Andrew Cunanan’s feelings before he murdered five people, yet the song is set to an industrial dance beat one would hear in a club. It sounded much more like a Beyoncé song than a Modest Mouse tune.
An industrial dance album would be interesting, but the group follows it with “Ansel,” which applies the production of new wave music from the ’80s to Modest Mouse’s rough style from the mid-’90s. Each track has its own direction, but “Ansel” and “Pistol (A. Cunanan, Miami, FL. 1996)” don’t belong on the same album.
Strangers to Ourselves doesn’t pack the emotional punch of the band’s previous releases, but what matters is that Modest Mouse still wants to take risks. Modest Mouse didn’t have to change its style, but the group did anyway.
Album: Strangers to Ourselves
Artist: Modest Mouse