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Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

Modest Mouse, We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THE fifth album from cult US indie rock band Modest Mouse is arguably their best yet. Not only does it build on the good work done by 2004’s Good News For People Who Love Bad News, but it also features the guitar work of Smiths legend Johnny Marr.

Entitled We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, it retains that distinct vocal quality, courtesy of Isaac Brock’s idiosyncratic lisp and edgy vocal style, but broadens the guitar sound that’s capable of much wider appeal.

Did we also mention that it features backing vocals from James Mercer of The Shins, just to confirm that this is an album capable of reaching out to a much wider indie-rock fanbase?

We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank is most definitely Modest Mouse’s most ambitious recording yet. It’s an album that strives to evolve the band’s unique but multi-faceted sound, incorporating string arrangements and electronic elements without ever compromising their distinct identity.

Hence, their loyal following will still revel in the offbeat qualities that have made them such a cult band, while newcomers will delight in the fact that tracks like Float On and Ocean Breathes Salty (from Good News…) weren’t a flash in the plan.

The highlights here are easy to pick. Lead single Dashboard is a quickly endearing blend of jagged guitar licks, trumpet blasts and edgy vocals that veer between punky and falsetto as only Brock knows how. The swirling strings in between each chorus also demonstrate the more ambitious scope of proceedings.

Fire It Up, which immediately follows, is a real grower built around some dazzling hooks and a chorus that’s made along for chanting along to in live form.

And Parting Of The Sensory showcases a deeper, more melancholy sound that’s possibly one of the most tender tracks they’ve ever put down.

Best of all is Missed The Boat, a genuine humdinger that trades laidback acoustics, a fine beat and some cracking vocals from both Brock and Mercer (definitely bringing out the best in each other). It’s an instant favourite and one to rival the instantly take-notice quality of Ocean Breathes Salty. The guitar work on the delicious chorus is particularly lovely.

Watch out, too, for the more rousing likes of We’ve Got Everything (another track destined for live favourite status), the tender Little Motel and the multi-layered and utterly absorbing People As Places As People, a track where Marr’s brilliance can definitely be felt.

If Modest Mouse continue to put out albums of this quality and attract newcomers and collaborators of the quality of Marr and Mercer, they’re cult tag may quickly become a thing of the past; they’ll be the new name on everyone’s lips from America.

Download picks: Dashboard, Fire It Up, Parting Of The Sensory, Missed The Boat, Little Motel, People As Places As People.

Track listing:

  1. March Into The Sea
  2. Dashboard
  3. Fire It Up
  4. Florida
  5. Parting Of The Sensory
  6. Missed The Boat
  7. We’ve Got Everything
  8. Fly Trapped In A Jar
  9. Education
  10. Little Motel
  11. Steam Engenius
  12. Spitting Venom
  13. People As Places As People
  14. Invisible