In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “I have no idea what kind of band Modest Mouse is, or is trying to be, but Strangers to Ourselves makes me like whatever it is.”
I don’t know anything about Modest Mouse or what to expect from Strangers to Ourselves. So I’m calling in a guest writer to take care of the intro to this review. A guest writer named Wikipedia. “Modest Mouse is an American indie rock band formed in 1992… Strongly influenced by groups such as Pavement, the Pixies, XTC, and Talking Heads… The band’s sixth album, Strangers to Ourselves, was released on March 17, 2015.” So, I guess that pretty much gets me up to speed.
A Celtic drum beat, gentle strings and dreamy vocals opens Strangers to Ourselves with a song of the same name, and I think I have even less of an idea what to expect from this band now than I did before pressing play. I only have more questions as the spacey chimes in the intro to Lampshades on Fire gives way to an almost hip hop approach to its frustrated vocals rock and roll drum and bass sounds.
There‘s a much more haunting result when they slow things down and darken things up on Shit in Your Cut. It makes me think that this is what The Cure might have sounded like if they came on the scene 20 years later they actually did. Which might be a terrible way to describe a song, but it’s much better than the way I’m about to describe Pistol (A. Cunanan, Miami FL, 1996). Because I have no idea where to even start with this one. Drums, distorted, minimal yet driving bass, vocals that are half spoken word, half chanted, all cartoon character-like. That’s 55 words that say absolutely nothing coherent about this song, but it’s all I got.
Surprisingly straight forward in its pop/rock, The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box comes with so much of the benefit of the weirder moments that preceded it, that it goes beyond anything like straight forward pop/rock. I almost feel like modest Mouse were testing me with the songs before this. Like they wanted to make sure I was fully committed to Strangers to Ourselves, before rewarding me with something so immediately catchy and accessible.
They mix things up yet again with the spooky circus, sea shanty that is Sugar Boats. Then Modest Mouse go full on new millennium arena indie with the very Arcade Fire sounding Wicked Campaign and be Brave. But considering Modest Mouse have been around almost a decade longer than Arcade Fire, it’s probably more like the latter sounding like the former.
The sonic one-eighties continue when Strangers to Ourselves serves up the group chant of God is an Indian and You’re an Asshole, and the declarative anger and passion rock that is The Tortoise and the Tourist. Then it’s back to the grandiose to close things out with Of Course We Know. An eclectic trio that presents the entire album pretty well. I have no idea what kind of band Modest Mouse is, or is trying to be, but Strangers to Ourselves makes me like whatever it is.