REVIEW: Modest Mouse – ‘Strangers to Ourselves’

modest mouse

Artist: Modest Mouse
Title: Strangers to Ourselves
Label: Epic Records
Genre: Alternative, Indie

At this point in the career of Modest Mouse, any new music comes with some unfortunate but fair expectations. It’s nearly impossible to listen to a new album and not think about past work. But that doesn’t mean we can’t welcome change or new approaches that a veteran band like this takes to music. That also doesn’t mean we have to like it. Strangers to Ourselves is Modest Mouse’s first album in eight years, so maybe it’s time that they re-invent the wheel. They certainly try a few times, but the result is nothing special, but it’s also nothing bad.

As you would expect, the album is full of traces of old Modest Mouse here and there that are not shocking. Some are appealing, some of them are very “whatever.” “Lampshades on Fire” is the obligatory “Modest Mouse hit song” on the album, and it’s kind of that “sigh of relief” on the album. “Sugar Boats” relapses to the Good News era — more directly “Satin in a Coffin,” with the trumpets and bass guitar. The end of the track is very enjoyable, and very fitting for the band; messy but with a point. “Coyotes” and “The Ground Walks” both are flashback songs, too, with traces of Moon & Antarctica drizzled all over.

There are other moments in the album that it seems like Isaac Brock and Co. have successfully jumped out of their comfort zone and managed a change-up. “Ansel” is a fine attempt at finding a spot between Best Coast and Yo La Tengo, while “Pups to Dust” doesn’t necessarily take a new direction, but it enhances and evolves the sound that is customary within a Modest Mouse song. The band lays it on thick in the chorus and is borderline overwhelming, but after a few listens, it’s a great mix of relaxing and schizophrenia from the band, which is perfectly fitting. Another interesting approach the band takes, is on “Wicked Campaign.” The song itself isn’t out of the ordinary for the band, but when it comes to a recording, it is. The band has made a habit lately of taking liberties with their songs, and stretching them into more experimental, if not psychedelic approaches to them. And this song is another perfect example of that. I’m still unsure of how I feel about the song, as it seems to be a sleeper — only time will tell, per usual with other past MM releases.

To be fair, there are moments within the album where my attention was lost. “Shit In Your Cut” leaves a lot to be desired after the very predictable, but fulfilling first single, and “The Tortoise and The Tourist” really doesn’t do a thing for me, personally. Then there’s “Pistol (A. Cunanan, Miami, FL. 1996)”. Oh, this track. You know. Props to you, Sir Issac. But no thanks. Let’s not do this one again. It’s the awkward duck of the collection of songs; it’s polarizing and really does nothing good. It left me feeling all “WTF?”

The moral of the story is, the album itself is a success — in the eyes of fanboys, seasonal fans, and even people that haven’t listened to Modest Mouse before (if they even exist). The album cohesively works, flows well from start to finish, minus a few bumps in the road, and honestly is a valuable addition to the band’s current catalogue. I don’t think it’s going to be remembered as one of their best, but it’s certainly not their worst either.

SCORE: 7/10
Review written by Corey From

Corey From

Corey From, from Kansas City, MO, when not thinking about or listening to music, obsessively thinks about Royals baseball, a platter of ribs (or BBQ in general) and cold beer. Nothing special really.
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  • Britt Hicks

    Cannot stop listening to the new Modest Mouse album Strangers to Ourselves! You can stream it on Spotify, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go listen to.

    https://open.spotify.com/album/6iKqPv9C5oU29LR82N8lJf

  • Roshid Choudhury

    Cannot stop listening to ‘sh*t in your cut’, how anyone can find that mediocre is beyond me. Welcome back, its a pleasure to hear you again.