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Modest Mouse We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

This is the Mouse that roars…

Jerome Blakeney 2007

Much has been made of the fact that the Mouse (The Mice?) have been forerunners in the move of so-called 'indie' into the mainstream arena, having scored a very palpable major label hit with 2004’s Good News For People Who Like Bad News, after ten years of cult-status. Yet maybe the fuss should be about how they managed this without tarnishing their credentials. We Were Dead… shows everyone how to do it. It’s wonderfully mangled and yet massively accomplished at the same time. Some trick…

With serial collaborator (and, whisper it, serial disappointer since leaving The Smiths), Johnny Marr, onboard to add a touch of jangly Mancunian magic to the Issaquah band, the rough edges of MM’s earlier indie racket have been smoothed to a chart-friendly sheen. This often involves the current trend of cramming in as much as possible; brass sections, accordions, massed backing vocals etc. But this rodent wins over the rest of the ratpack by dint of vertiginous arrangements and an irrepressible bounce.

There are still issues surrounding Isaac Brock’s voice. His adopted shout/squeal/growl/rant is an acquired taste that is often at odds with the lush surroundings, but the amusingly wry lyrics and plainly hummable tunes mean that We Were…should yield at least a couple of chart-worrying singles. First single, ‘’Dashboard’’, is a fine example of this. All Talking Heads stuttering guitars, over-excited vocals and yet still with an eye towards the more avant garde end of contemporary math-rock. Even bringing to mind current cutting edge darlings, Battles.

James Mercer of the Shins, another band to push maverick tendencies back towards the mainstream, turns up top harmonise on three tracks; notably the edgy and witty “We’ve Got Everything” which even manages to sound like 80s-period Yes in places. Again it’s a remarkable balancing act that manages to simultaneously take chances while daring you to sing along.

It’s a breathtakingly audacious ruse, and works on about 70 percent of this glittering, slightly surreal album. Perhaps it’s all too much for one sitting, but at this rate we’ll all be buying the greatest hits album in another ten years. This is the Mouse that roars…

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