Local Wire

Modest Mouse

Ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr knows a little something about dealing with strong-willed vocalists (ahem, Morrissey), so it's no surprise that his contributions to the poppiest Modest Mouse record yet are solid. But it's still a treat to hear how focused Isaac Brock and company are on the lushly arranged Ship, perhaps thanks to new member Marr's steadying veteran influence. "Dashboard" is Talking Heads taking a spin at the roller disco (and is Ship's über-mainstream moment, à la the last album's "Float On"), while other songs channel the maritime folk of the Waterboys and Pogues, strident dance-punk, and (as usual) Built to Spill's nervous energy and Pavement's drawl. Even the occasional nods to Modest Mouse's less-accessible days — e.g., the string-storm "Parting of the Sensory," whose ominous chords and chorus ("Someday you will die somehow and something's gonna steal your carbon") thunder like a fire-and-brimstone sermon — somehow feel more mystical than manic. At the same time, vocalist Isaac Brock's grunts, growls and existential musings sound even more unhinged — mainly because he's up against hi-fi production, airtight hooks, and numerous appearances by Shins vocalist James Mercer (the latter's reedy, cherubic tenor anchors the rollicking R.E.M.-like highlight "Florida" and the ridiculously catchy lock-step march "We've Got Everything"). And while the album starts to sound boring and feel bloated by its end — and longtime fans will likely be aghast at Ship's commercial viability — its sublime moments, coupled with Modest Mouse's newfound clarity, make for a bewitching listen.
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Annie Zaleski
Contact: Annie Zaleski