Elizabeth Stolfi
staff writer
April 05, 2007
Buy it at Insound!
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Rock Music Reviews
Modest Mouse
We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

In a world where Modest Mouse can make it to number one on the Billboard 200, there just may be hope for us yet. Modest Mouse are like a Cinderella version of a rock band. After an impressive run of indie releases, a super hit in “Float On,” and recruiting of modern rock guitar legend Johnny Marr; Modest Mouse may have hit their hippest hip. We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank continues where Good News left off. Sure, with an album title like Good News For People Who Love Bad News, you would think things may be looking up for the over-hyper-yet-morbid Isaac Brock. Well, things are not better, despite the drastic jump of popularity for Brock and his eccentric band.

The first track of We Were Dead should be a lesson for any band who believes you should change your art for mass consumption. Brock screams and yelps and swoons with utter chaos in his voice. Lyrically, the words are nonsensical, while the theme…clear as crystal. Brock mixes the most depressing of thoughts with rather ominous laughter: “Give me forests so dead/I wish death on myself/Ah ha ha.” The laughing bursts are accentuated by the bursting of Marr’s crisp guitars. Right from the first track, it’s more than obvious that Modest Mouse have not just added a new guitar player, but have reinvented their band around a new member.

The next track and single, “Dashboard” gives us a taste of Brock’s twisted view of optimism; “Well, it would've been/could've been worse than you would ever know/Oh, the dashboard melted/but we still have the radio.” Musically, it’s a bit indie rock and a bit dance rock, but it’s mostly good rock. Bassist Eric Judy is not to be lost in the mix (though he did miss out on the Spin cover). He does enough to make the overwhelming Pixies influence less noticeable, avoiding the four note riff like the plague - and adding a bit of a (oddly enough) Smiths sound to the tracks.

“Parting of the Sensory” is almost a four part mini-epic, consisting of two parts acoustic ballad, one part arena rock, and one part…umm, hoe-down. The track escalates from silence to complete madness. Brock sings about his anger in a way that makes you angry about something; anything. “Any shithead who had ever walked/Could take the ship and do a much finer job.” It’s obviously about an ex-girlfriend…or the president. Either way, it’s brilliant in a way that even the most experienced indie rock veterans would shake their heads at.

As the album continues, there’s more ominous laughter & morbid lyrics and bursting guitars to match. This may be what makes “Little Motel” stand out; less like a sore thumb, and more like a black sheep. The complication of love, and all relationships in general, is rolled up into this 4 minute and 44 second ballad that’s sad without being obnoxious, and romantic without being nauseating. It’s somewhere right in between, as is Modest Mouse itself. Not many bands get to the top of both worlds (in more ways than one), but they are certainly one of them. However, We Were Dead Before the Ship Sank may be the first of it’s kind to see the top of Billboard.

Release date: March 20, 2007
Label: Sony Records
Rating: 8.5 / 10

On the web: http://www.modestmousemusic.com