Jun 24, 2021
By Matt the Raven
Through hundreds of raucous live shows and two late ’90s album releases, Modest Mouse achieved regional cult status with an alternative yet honest rock sound that was both buzzy and cacophonous and also an acquired taste. But these Pacific Northwest cult heroes turned into international indie rock luminaries with a string of pop hits and a couple of ultra-successful, major-label releases, by toning down the frenzy and concentrating more on the songwriting without compromising their unique strain of experimental, lo-fi post rock.
So when the release of The Golden Casket was announced, along with a pledge from head mouse Isaac Brock to not play guitar on the band’s seventh studio album, fans and critics alike were left wondering if Modest Mouse would build on the pretty pop and epic hooks of recent past successes or if they would revert back to the more introspective, peculiar, and frazzled rock of less successful, but equally compelling, releases.
Thankfully, The Golden Casket offers something new while embracing the old. The focus on songwriting remains, but with a broken pledge—yes, Brock includes guitars—and an unfamiliar approach to creating sound collages; there’s plenty of music that’s immediately fetching while some requires repeated plays to absorb and appreciate its diverse nature and expanded scope.
There’s also plenty of brooding, serrated indie rock and signature Modest Mouse grittiness, only it sounds as if it’s filtered through a codeine gauze, while the band flesh out explorations of tone and texture within the context of the groove and freshen up the melodies with a pleasant cacophony of motley instrumentation (and guitars!). The instant hits include the commercial leaning singles “We Are Between,” “Leave a Light On,” and “The Sun Hasn’t Left.” The more understated, yet perhaps more brilliant and definitely more enthralling, are tracks such as opener “Fuck Your Acid Trip,” “Never Fuck a Spider On the Fly,” and the exceptional “Wooden Soldiers.”
Brock sings with his usual passion and fortitude while exploring a multitude of themes with sometimes clever, sometimes cloying, but always entertaining lyrics.
With the band’s first album in six years, Modest Mouse prove they have the staying power to remain atop the indie rock heap with their knack for harnessing a whimsical energy combined with tight little nuggets of sound and various fragments from diverse styles and genres to create something entirely different that is both exciting and fresh. (www.modestmouse.com)
Author rating: 8.5/10
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