Given all the shit that Modest Mouse lead man Isaac Brook went through in the past couple years, I guess everyone should be happy enough that there's a new release at all from the group. Brook not only was accused of rape, but had his jaw broken and was pretty much on the down-and-out for awhile. After a pretty solid solo album under the name Ugly Cassanova just over a year ago, Modest Mouse is back with their happiest album ever. It's almost weird to hear the group pumping out tracks that bubble with such a vibe, but most of the time it actually works and while the album isn't nearly their best, it's another decent entry from a group who has yet to truly release a dud.
Probably the biggest complaint could be that the group has tightened up their sound even more on this release, leaving behind even more of the roughshod qualities that made their earlier discs blister with such energy. That's not to say that it's completely glistening, though, as there's still enough strangeness to make you wonder how they slipped it by the execs at Epic/Sony. The opening of the disc is so soft and sweet that you may find yourself wondering if it's even the same group. "The World At Large" is a quiet guitar-driven track kissed with electronics and contemplative vocals by Brook while their first single from the release ("Float On") is probably the most happy things they've ever done. At three and a half minutes, it's a poppy gem that features happy-go-lucky vocals and bouncy, twangey guitars.
"Bury Me With It" finds the group back closer to their older sound with over-the-top vocals by Brook that explode with hollowed-out drum choruses. It's raucous and fun and features the album title in lyrics that come in during a quiet breakdown that works quite well before the track changes direction almost entirely. "Dance Hall" takes things even further, rolling along with fairly simple instrumentation and yelled vocals by Brook that reach a frenzied point by the conclusion. Elsewhere, the group teams up with the Dirty Dozen Brass band on the Tom Waits-esque "This Devil's Workday" and drop off to a quiet ballad on "Blame It On The Tetons."
One noticible thing about the release is that there are a lot more synth sounds on tracks, and sometimes (as in "The View"), the guitars very nearly take a backseat to the bouncy keyboard melodies. On first listen, it's something that's really noticible, but the instrumental trickery takes a backseat to the mostly solid songcraft anyway. While there are a couple meaningless interludes (like the kids voices and accordion of "Interlude (Milo)," they don't bust up the album too much. At 16 songs and 48 minutes, the release is easily the most concise statement from the group thusfar, and it's that shorter running length (and lighter feel of several tracks) that make it feel less-weighty overall than previous efforts. As mentioned above, it's not their best disc (that crown would still have to go to The Lonesome Crowded West for my money), but it's worth having if you're a fan of the group.