Strangers to Ourselves
Welcome to alternative rock’s Chinese Democracy. Modest Mouse’s sixth studio album is the Washington state band’s first full-length work of new songs since 2007; it may also be the longest hour of music you hear this year. Singer-songwriter Isaac Brock and drummer Jeremiah Green, aided by a cast of dozens, including the Shins’ James Mercer, have stuffed Strangers to Ourselves to infinity with textural detail and manic leaps in style: the chamber-folk title song, the rococo hip-hop of “Lampshades on Fire,” the ’79-Talking Heads sprint “The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box.” The effect is a riot of craft that never coheres but rewards committed listening, thrilling in bolts and spurts like a good multiband compilation.
There is a lurking sense in Brock’s choppy ocean of lyrics — as if he’s thrown the words together from a library of agitated tweets — and chantlike singing. His world has been physically and socially devastated by greed, carelessness and the death of simple courtesies. “Ain’t it hard feeling tired all the time?” Brock asks in “The Best Room.” He also sings this at the start of the song — “Let loose with your charms, go reckless unharmed” — like a guy for whom there is no such thing as overkill, only failing to see how far you can go.