It has been 8 years since Modest Mouse’s most recent studio album, ‘We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank‘, which left a certain level of anticipation for the follow up ‘Strangers To Ourselves‘. There was an uncertainty too. An unsureness, a worry that was in no way helped by the indie-pop single ‘Lampshades Of Fire‘ that implied that this once unique band was on the decline in terms of quality.
But we needn’t have worried. Over the course of Strangers To Ourselves the band’s moody, more alternative sound from earlier albums bleeds perfectly into the more melodic, indie pop style the band introduced in later albums, particularly in songs such as ‘Be Brave’ and ‘Shit In Your Cut’. Throughout the album the band also bring in many new sounds, such as a hint of an electronic breakdown on ‘Sugar Boats’, as well as a wide array of emotions, ranging from the happy-go-lucky indie disco of Lampshades On Fire to the hauntingly sad opening title song, to the anger of ‘The Tortoise And The Tourist’.
Of course, it isn’t an album without its faults. Not every song hits its mark, such as the slightly dull, folky ‘Coyotes’ and at 15 tracks long it perhaps drags on a bit too much. But all of this is made up for by the occasional strokes of absolute genius; the backing vocal responses in the second verse of ‘Pups To Dust’ (“we remain the same/I’M NOT SURE ABOUT THAT/or pretty much the same/NOW THAT’S MORE LIKE IT”), the song title of the year contender ‘God’s An Indian And You’re An Asshole’, the beautifully creepy chorus of the aforementioned Shit In Your Cut.
After such a long time away Modest Mouse just felt they needed to remind the world of what they can actually do, and Strangers To Ourselves does this perfectly. From the hip-hop tinged aggressive funk of ‘Pistol (A. Cunanan, Miami, FL. 1996)’, to the chilling, ambient closer ‘Of Course We Know’, to the evil-sounding, Rocky Horror Picture Show-esque jazz of ‘Sugar Boats’, the band hardly leave a genre untouched. When the album does eventually finish we are left wondering whether Modest Mouse are a band with any limitations at all, and with a certainty that Strangers To Ourselves is their most ambitious, diverse release yet. And that really is saying something.