Although Modest Mouse sort of built up a name for themselves with full-length releases like This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Talk About and The Lonesome Crowded West, they'd been around for a long time before that putting out 7 inch singles and EPs (including the excellent, out-of-print Interstate 8). Fortunately for those without either a turntable or patience to actually go out and hunt everything down, UP Records has compiled quite a batch of tracks on this release (although it could have easily stretched out to 2CDs given the amount of output by the group previous to their bona fide releases) that chronicle the non-full-length work by the group.
Having come from lots of different releases and different spans of time, it's interesting to hear that actually this is still quite a cohesive release and also shows that the group has always been doing some pretty interesting things as just a trio of musicians. Once again, their songs sometimes sprawl all over the place while sometimes locking into a tight groove and rocking.
The release actually starts out with the track "Never Ending Math Equation" and once again (like on their releases The Lonesome Crowded West, and This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Talk About) it finds lead singer Isaac Brock thinking about life while travelling. It's a theme that finds its way into a lot of the lyrics of the group (and even within the rambling sounds of the music itself), but somehow they manage to pull it off nearly every time and sound fresh in the process. That same theme is revisited in the very next track as well ("Interstate 8" from the unfortunately out-of-print EP of the same name) and after a long buildup, the group rocks out for a quick burst at the end.
The next two tracks get a bit more dreary and slow, and if "Broke" doesn't beat you down a bit then the follow-up of "Medication" (complete with found sound of city as a backdrop) and its languid pace shows that the group can do something quiet and sedated (which makes the title even more fitting) as well. After the amazing "Workin' On Leavin' The Livin'" (which is actually the b-side of the Never Ending Math Equation 7" release), comes the first truly upbeat track on the release. "All Nite Diner" is a jangling, lurching track that reflects on the hilarious characters met late at night in a diner booth and the quirked-out song wheezes right along with the funny lyrics.
If you like the group, you're not really going to go wrong with this release. Although it's a bit more relaxed than some of their other releases ("Sleepwalkin" is basically just a riff on the classic steel guitar track "Sleepwalk" by B.J. Cole), there are a few tracks where the group rock out a bit and fortunately they close out the release with one. Like so many of the great extended jamming tracks that the group does, it shambles along with Brock yelling occassionally and singing at other points while the music feels like it's about to fall apart. It doesn't, though, and instead the group click into a repetitive two-step and slowly drift out towards the end. While it may not be the best way to introduce yourself to the group, there is a lot of good music and if you're a completist, it's a hell of a lot easier than finding all the original single releases.