Modest Mouse, a nearly two-decade old indie rock band highly criticized for their atheist lyrical themes, released their fifth album, No One’s First and You’re Next, on August 4, 2009. While the band shifts their usual hard rock style to a more ambient, chill tune, they deliver exactly what their fans expect of them: a thought-provoking compilation of songs approaching mysterious life topics, from relationships to death.
Though initially biased in my innate love for the band and what they represent, I approached new Modest Mouse with an objective first listen, for I had not been in favor of the album’s single, “Autumn Beds,” which was previously released. “Autumn Beds” left me bored after a few listens, mostly because of the lack of lyrics and the song’s hierarchy of need for the overpowering musicality. The rest of the album, however, was much more striking in terms of interest.
The album’s title is the first thing that led me to think it was worthy of giving a listen. Though most bands’ fans would love to listen to their favorites’ new albums, No One’s First and You’re Next meant something deeper to me. Unaware of the band’s intentions in this title, I believe it is used to represent all things in life that we initially fear, but we know we must do. Tasks without examples, without someone else going first and leading, are usually the most difficult, but also the most worthwhile and rewarding.
My favorite part of Modest Mouse’s music, as with many bands, is the lyrics. This album is no exception. The band’s singer and lyricist, Isaac Brock, leads an interesting interrogative imagery in songs such as “Guilty Cocker Spaniels” and “Satellite Skin.” “Do you even believe that there’s a race to be won?” seems to nail the inner sense of competition that everyone strives to overcome but still embraces in their lives.
The album also exhibits reoccurring themes of Modest Mouse music, such as life being a game; “Wait, what? You’re winning? You didn’t say this was a game” is a key line in “Guilty Cocker Spaniels.”
The song “I’ve Got It All (Most)” struck an emotional tendon when I first listened to it. Having gone through an emotionally challenging breakup, the song comforted my weak spots of knowing that life isn’t about having it all figured out. As Brock sang, “I’ve got it all most/I’ve got it all almost figured out/But always when I get there/Always when I get there all the pieces they just fall apart,” I realized the importance of finding myself again, finding the fun in discovering who I am.
In terms of instrumental music in No One’s First and You’re Next, I enjoyed numerous guitar riffs and the use of the drums in the rhythmic pattern of the album. My favorite music song in the album was “The Whale Song.”
Altogether, I would strongly recommend this album to Modest Mouse fans of the past. Though there are a few slight changes in the way the music is presented, it’s still wonderful quality for the band, and shows quite a bit of progression from their guitarist change in 2007.
And, naturally, the band has obviously recognized this change, best seen in the lyrics “I’m going to knock that look off your face like life don’t hold you no more mystery.”