Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank

I listened to this album yesterday, and the first song a few times, and Dashboard a couple times. So by now it ought to be in my album file up there, where everything seems familiar, good, and orderly. Going by my personal principle that any album I don't like the first time could very well be one of my favorites, this one was half and half.

But now for a fresh listening, I insert the earbuds into those waxy things on the side of my head and get ready for the joy of music. Here's what I know about Modest Mouse, nothing. I've heard the name several times over the years from checking out usenet music groups. That's it. Plus what I listened to yesterday, that's it. I understand they had a hit single, "Float On," and someone did one of their songs on American Idol, and their album is stocked at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is no one's favorite store, but once your album is there it generally means you're in the mainstream; they don't stock much marginal music.


1) March Into The Sea - Accordion, then I know it becomes something more raucous. Mad scientist voice, or mad sea captain voice, thrashing about on deck. I like the wimpy innocent voice a little ways in. It's kind of Flaming Lips or Starlight Mints. The sea captain part has to be a fun one to sing. This is actually a pretty good song, now that it's in that section of my head. I didn't care for it the first time. The music is loping, with a strong guitar, minor note sound, and edging in violin; "bang your head like a gong...clang clang." Builds like a waltz, much madness swirling about, the singer in anguish.

2) Dashboard - I really like this one. It's a very conventional sounding song, straightforward. "The dashboard melted but we still have the radio." The voices are eccentric, cool answers by the background guys. Musical interlude, very pretty, this is an excellent song. Driving beat, like an '80s sound. "Would've been, could'a been worse than you ever know." Tiny giants and tinier giants. Just listening, what it's all about, I don't know. I read the lyrics yesterday, and that didn't help much, but it might've just been me.

3) Fire It Up - Starts very orderly, dot dot dot dot. "Fire it up, when we finally turn it over, make a beeline toward the boulder, we have a drink, you've had enough." Hanging out on the shore, leaving our clothes there. Guitars make a kind of echo to the lyrics, wa wa wa wa wa. Sounds sentimental in the middle, sentimentality I like. The "fire it up" phrase is sweet, too. These guitars are great. Vocal interplay neat, playing with the words, I like. Wa wa wa wa wa again. "Like trying to save an ice cube from the cold." Good line. This song is really great. Tones going up in beautiful way toward the end.

4) Florida - Manic beginning, vocals and guitars. Chorus part very pretty, though I can't understand the words. There's a cool collapsing part, like an insert. "Florida!" Now we have the collapsing bit a couple more times, really nice. Hope that's clear enough. How do you describe music anyway? Manic guy is back, guitars answer like boards falling over. Ha ha.

5) Parting of the Sensory - Before this one starts, I had the feeling it was something like dying, or parting of the veil, yesterday. It made me think of spiritualists, like Madame Blavatsky or something that I don't know much about. Maybe it's not. Let me listen again. It seemed like the heart of the record. "Carbon's anniversary," is that what it says? "The parting of the sensory." Like you're carbon and you're going to rejoin the all, become building blocks for other beings. The music is laid-back yet eccentric, a good word. Violin is morose. "She's parting again, if you please." "Who the hell made you the boss?" "The weather changed for the worst." Big music notes, building, like a whack in the head. "A trip to the exact same spot." "We're lost." You can't get lost. Music really wild and great in this bit. "Sometimes you will die and somehow something's going to steal your carbon." This is going to be repeated over and over. It's good. Hoe-down music toward the end. All confused about who's going to die and what's going to happen to the carbon.

6) Missed The Boat - Sounds real nice and conventional (which is also good) to start. I like comfort, too. "Change the subject, I was knocking on your ears." Sentimental and yearning stuff, while sounding edgy. Very pretty stuff, so accessible, sounds autobiographical in the extreme, proclamations about how it's been, self-indulgent, like this post. It's not like there's any reason to hold back, is there? After all, who cares. It's only the noosphere that cares anyway. This might be a song I wouldn't like that much in the long-run, because it's so much like what I've said, like "Creeque Alley," I only like that stuff briefly. But I do love Boston's "Rock 'n' Roll Band." Guitars, nice.

7) We've Got Everything - Thank goodness we have an edgy opening, angular guitars. The vocals are edgy but also very accessible. When I heard this stuff yesterday it sounded foreign, today it's like an old shoe. Telling what various ones did, listing the guys, and saying "We've done everything, like trial by fire, so I guess we'll stop trying now." This is also a very sentimental song. Rockers are always the most sentimental people. Explain that. Country guys look for the clever turn of phrase, rockers knit doilies.

8) Fly Trapped In A Jar - This one is going to open with fly buzzing, that I believe morphs into a guitar, distorted at first, then revealing itself in clarity. Or maybe not. Crazy vocal style, like a comic voice. "One wing isn't even enough." Interesting sounding verses. Sharp pointed instruments. Something about Gary, and I hadn't noticed. The words sound easy to come up with, since it can be anything. You could make this up as you go along. The guitars recall the fly. "We were already dead."

9) Education - Bass, bass, with the crazy vocal. The guitars sound a lot like "Fly Trapped" guitars. In fact the tune reminds me of the last song, but I'm not backing up. Hadn't lived enough to even die. Death comes up again. Guitars in the middle, nice vibrato, and close up secondary vocals, shortly there. I don't care for the vocal style that much on this song. It's similar to some of the others, but by now it's wearing out its welcome. Plus I'm getting hungry and it's still an hour to American Idol. Books on the shelf looking much smarter than me, I can identify with it. I should look up the words to this one.

10) Little Motel - Starts very peacefully. I would like to hear it go like that. The vocal from track 1 is back. I usually think of this voice when I think of indie rock. "Sinking ships" and adrift. "That's what I'm waitin' for," a nice refrain, lips, darlin'. Very pretty singing and group vocals. If I was a single track downloader, I'd go for this one, and a few others. I'll summarize in a bit. It's just sweet, like drifting along. This is the first day of Spring, too. So it's a good song for robins to bill and coo to, then nine months later a nest of blue eggs. Just a nice nice nice song. You might burn this one for Grandma, or the kids.

11) Steam Engenius - "I was born in a factory," then I don't get it. Back to edgy, good spitting out style, great instruments edging in. This vocal is the one that can deteriorate into the crazy sea captain voice, but it hasn't yet. So far it's good. And the background "Wa hoo" noises are good. Good hard rocking song, very verbose but not easily understandable. Pops down to a drum and high bass thing, and the vocals more plaintive. Voices harmonizing, but with some freedom. Now back into it. I have no idea what this song is about, but it has a great vibe. Factory songs get to me, really, I always think of the Kinks "Workin' in the Factory" song, or a title something like that. I used to walk country roads singing it, shouting at various people who weren't there.

12) Spitting Venom - Acoustic guitar and insistent voice. "Talkin' soda pop ... opinions I ain't got ... let it all drop." "You were spittin' venom at most everything you know." Let it drop, electric guitar appears in the background. Kind of a Leon Russell vocal. Now the guitars and full orchestral array is in evidence, with the same tune blasted out. This is a long track. There's still 6 minutes at this point. Can I make it? 5:00 to go and the acoustic guy is back. Horns, a musical intermission here. Introducing more and more, something of a shift in the vocal, not clear what he's saying. The music is a nice section. Like an extended build-up that is very slow and intentional, no rushing it. It was getting kind of boring at about 5:00 to go, then the whole ending section was great. I can't believe the track flipped and redeemed itself like that. But I loved hearing it. 40 seconds to go, and we're in this delicious musical madness.

13) People As Places As People - Straightforward rock song-sounding thing. Good, workman-like, hammered out, so far. Sounds like Dick Dale on guitar for a second there. Humorous, playful lyrics and style. Again, a good musical section right in the middle, like Japanese something. Funky drums, F-bomb, hurt my ears. I saw on Napster they had like three or four tracks marked "Explicit." An OK song, nothing special, average, there, now it's passing.

14) Invisible - Segueing into this song, neat sharp instruments, I really might cut myself, this is sharp, driving, big bad vocals, the hard edged rock style again. The instruments are cool to the extreme, pushing me out to the dance floor to do the Mashed Potato or whatever dance is hot these days. Only 2:31 to go. This could be a song to extend out, and tamp down the vocals to an inside voice. I haven't paid much attention to the words, because the music is so nice. Good innocent vocal is back, and some effects on the vocals, burying them behind a droning build-up, to the sharp, meat carving guitars. 30 seconds to go, and let me say that was an enjoyable time, except for all the typing. But it went by pretty fast.

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