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Modest Mouse: The Golden Casket

There exists an “old” Modest Mouse and a “new” one. The latter was born from the catchy and more traditionally produced Good News for People Who Love Bad News and its smash hit “Float On,” which is one of the best alt-rock songs of the 2000s. Though the group’s subsequent albums have been more commercial and straightforward than their earlier masterpieces, most of their post-Good News music has stayed true to the strengths of their roots, largely revolving around Isaac Brock’s eccentric vocals bending around cheekily existential one-liners.

Though it doesn’t touch the originality of albums like The Lonesome Crowded West, Modest Mouse’s seventh studio LP The Golden Casket is their strongest since Good News. The record opens with the gritty “Fuck Your Acid Trip,” a restless intro about spinning out on a bad trip. An Arcade Fire-esque pounding and distorted guitar riff intensely complement Brock’s panicked “I have to go right now.” Many of Modest Mouse’s best songs have been about the struggle to get out of your own head, whether it be in the context of the universe or the drag of everyday life, and The Golden Casket’s opener adds psychedelics to this catalog.

“We’re Lucky” brings back the universal scale of The Moon & Antarctica as Brock delivers the latest of his great lines, “It takes a lifetime to ever figure out that there/ There ain’t no lifetime that’s ever figured out.” A lonesome guitar line walks over a steady groove that slowly builds with trumpets as Brock finds solace in acknowledging the miracle of existence without trying to understand it. This and the whiskey-drunk “Wooden Soldiers” harken back to Modest Mouse’s early days, the latter haunted by the crooning of a Wild West ghost and a rattling that evokes the typing of the song’s businessmen choked by their neckties. As the song ushers in a sleepy outro, Brock again expresses a newfound contentment with his place in the universe: “Just being here now is enough for me.”

Elsewhere, The Golden Casket offers exciting new avenues for the band. The immersive, glitchy “Transmitting Receiving” infuses OK Computer’s technology paranoia with Modest Mouse’s classic oddball levity as Brock rattles off a stream-of-consciousness bout of information overload: “Blinds, struts, beaks, shocks, tornados, crockpots, kumquats.” Beyond the sanity check that Isaac can still get away with words like “kumquat” in his songs, the track is mesmerizing and unconventional in its layered vocals and its structure that dramatically builds to a fade-out with no release. Meanwhile, the irresistible “Leave A Light On” is a counterpart to David Byrne’s “Everybody’s Coming to My House” with Brock marvelling at his friend’s house after a year of quarantine over a collage of Talking Heads-inspired effects.

The Golden Casket is also refreshing in its consistency, the first Modest Mouse album in too long without a dud. The record’s weakest points are a bit unexciting and forgettable rather than offensive, still managing to fit snugly into the tracklist. Lead single “We Are Between” features generic ‘80s new wave guitar—clearly carried over from Johnny Marr’s days with the band—and a shout-along chorus we’ve heard countless times. “Lace Your Shoes” is more memorable for its sweet lyrics, but the sentiment is somewhat lost in overproduction. There isn’t an acoustic guitar to be found on the record, and it’s sorely missed on this heartfelt ode to Brock’s kids.

For the record, the appropriate response to a budding fan who only knows Modest Mouse’s new stuff is “these albums are great, and if you like them then you will love their first few records.” This can certainly be said for Isaac Brock and co.’s seventh album. The Golden Casket is the sound of a band reinvigorated, enthusiastically exploring new styles while calling back to the elements that made their early work so groundbreaking.

Summary
The Golden Casket is the sound of a band reinvigorated, enthusiastically exploring new styles while calling back to the elements that made Modest Mouse’s early work so groundbreaking.
75 %
Indie Legends Reinvigorated

One Comment

  1. Ryan Nickell

    July 12, 2021 at 11:46 am

    Love the review. Great album that feels like Modest Mouse is back better than ever and ready to continue innovating. One quick note though, I’m pretty sure there is acoustic guitar on the chorus of Fuck Your Acid Trip.

    Reply

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