The Moon and Antarctica – Modest Mouse

The Moon and Antarctica

Modest Mouse

Original: 2000

Reissue: 2004

Epic Records

Modest Mouse has always been an intriguing band… but then again so is their fan base.  For example, there are people who like their music (I’m one of them), there are people who like them ironically (because they’re bad (which they aren’t)), and there are people who don’t like them at all.  Now I’ll be honest, I can’t claim to have a lot of indie cred on this.  I started liking Modest Mouse just before they got popular in the mainstream.  The Moon and Antarctica is personally my favorite album from them, and that’s what we’re here to talk about, so let’s get into it.

Starting off with “3rd Planet”, we have some mellow guitar, and then we hear Isaac Brock for the first time on the album.  Yep, it’s definitely the way we expect Brock to sound.  This is a very strong track starting off the album.  The music, while slightly repetitive, isn’t to the point of being boring, and really sets a good tone.  The lyrics are definitely the hallucinogen-inspired deepness that genius Brock churns out constantly.

“Gravity Rides Everything” starts off with some cool guitar effects, like someone messing with a crossfader.  Brock changes it up a little here, sounding slightly more hushed and mellow (if it were possible).  But as usual, the lyrics are slightly unintelligible, but nonetheless brilliant.  I think I even heard some wood block percussion in there! Hell yeah Modest Mouse!

“Dark Center of the Universe” is up next, and I personally love the intro to this song.  It really does have the mood like you’re floating in space, and there’s nothing around you, but you’re following the sound of a guitar.  Oh yeah, and Brock has his signature sound here, of course.  Once we get past the first verse, it really kicks in and it’s a full effort from the whole band.  Oh yeah, and the chorus really kicks ass, especially the lyrics (semi-intelligible as they are).  Definitely one of my favorite songs on the album, both in terms of music and lyrics.

“Perfect Disguise” drops the tempo incredibly, but you can definitely tell it’s a Modest Mouse song from the start.  At 2:43, it’s one of the shorter songs on the album, but it definitely feels like the usual 4 minute tracks due to the tempo.  Cool background vocals, the usual brilliant lyrics, and vocals and music blending well deliver a solid mellow track.

But don’t count Modest Mouse out because you don’t like the mellow stuff, because they’re back in gear with “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes”.  Brock has an interesting sound here with his vocals.  I’m not sure if he’s harmonizing with himself or another member of the band, but it sounds damn cool.  Then the chorus changes it completely.  Oh yeah, also this is the song that Isaac Brock stabbed himself multiple times during at a performance a year ago or so.  He’s a crazy motherf*cker.  Did I mention hallucinogens before?  Because Brock likes them.  Keep that in mind.  Oh and the guitar outro is cool.

“A Different City” starts out right in your face with some kickass guitar which drops out, but comes back later.  Brock describes wanting to live a life of solitude in a different city, but using confusing language at times.  For example:  ‘I wanna remember to remember to forget you forgot me’…. yeah…..  Still a really cool song, with Modest Mouse sticking to what they know.

“The Cold Part” slows it down again, but I can’t get into this song for some reason.  The vocal effects and guitar both have really cool sounds, there’s even some violin!  It just comes off as a depressing song, and maybe that’s what I don’t like about it.  For me, it’s definitely the low point of the album.

“Alone Down There” brings back confusing harmonies (if you can call whispering harmonizing… can you?) Brock’s evil laughing at times adds a cool element to the song as well, and he’s in true form in the chorus.  Another short song, this time at 2:23, but doesn’t fall short (hahahaha play on words!).  The one thing about this song is that it kinda leaves you hanging, like it finishes before it’s over.  The guitar solo is pretty awesome though, and takes us out fairly well.  Either way, a definite improvement over “The Cold Part”.

“The Stars Are Projectors”… the 8, almost 9 minute epic.  In the beginning, Brock seems like he just overdubbed multiple layers of himself just babbling into the mic, and then it comes back again shortly thereafter.  Then the cool part of the song starts, with the deep lyrics that are expected.  Sometimes I wonder if they are intended to be deep, or if we’re just reading far too much into them.  Either way, the brilliance is obvious, albeit drug-induced.  The third stage starts speeding up, and then we slow back down again.  This song really is like a roller coaster ride.  Some speeding up again, and trippy-ness, all funneling into a slow-paced ending.

So here’s one of my favorite songs on the album, where Brock does everything.  “Wild Packs of Family Dogs” is a short song with an interesting theme; it’s about a kid whose life is ruined by these wild dogs.  His dad gets fired, his sister gets abducted and eaten, and his own dog runs away with them.  But what the hell is blood dust? Something you can cry, apparently.  Eventually, the dogs die at the same time as him, and they go to heaven.  What the hell is this song really about?  I think you need to take LSD to really figure it out, so someone test this and report back.  Not really though.

“Paper Thin Walls” is another up-beat, up-tempo song, and this really gets the nod for my favorite song on the album.  To be honest, something about this song really makes me happy, and I can’t explain it.  It’s a helluva lot of fun to listen to.  Brock is in true form, and the whole band really finds their groove on this track.  The lyrics are rather interesting, and they seem like just random thoughts that fit the pace of the song.

“I Came as a Rat” is really close to “Paper Thin Walls” for me in terms of favorite song.  There are so many versions of this song, from the original, to the live versions, to the long walk off version… and I like ’em all.  The lyrics are pretty cool, like they just follow a stream of consciousness with similarly sounding words.  Also I love the lyric ‘it takes a long time, but God dies too, but not before he’ll stick it to you’.  There’s so many lyrics to quote here, but I can’t fit them all, so just listen to it… you won’t regret it.

So we slow down yet again, this time for “Lives”.  Interesting lyrics here, how everyone just wants to live their own lives, indifferent to the feelings of others.  It’s pretty depressing, but still a good song.  Brock goes on to say how we’re alive for the first and last time, how short it is, but how it takes so long, and how we need to live while we’re alive; a good message there.  ‘My mom’s god is a woman, and my mom she is a witch’ is a great lyric.  I’m pretty sure Brock did everything on this song too.

“Life Like Weeds” is an interesting song, with Brock bouncing back and forth between two distinctive vocal sounds that he does so well.  The band definitely keeps up with him here, and they combine to deliver a very good song that doesn’t feel as long as it is.

“What People are Made Of” is a really cool album closer.  We start off with some kickass music, and then Brock… well he yells.  Unintelligibly.  With distortion.  Yeah… the vocals are kinda out there, but the music itself really makes this song what it is:  a powerful album closer that delivers.

Or is it over?  No, see, I have the re-release version of the album, so included are three BBC radio edits and one instrumental, so I’ll just explain them all together here shortly.  The “3rd Planet” edit has one changed lyric, and a censoring of the words ‘fucking’.  Pretty cool how the Brits do their censoring though.  Other than that, the same thing as the regular version.  “Perfect Disguise” is completely different.  The vocals have a weird, but cool effect to them.  That’s really the only change that matters here.  “Custom Concern” is a song from Modest Mouse’s previous album This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About. Yes, that’s the album title.  It’s a cool instrumental, definitely worth listening to.  Finally, the “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes” edit.  It’s a lot softer than the original, with the bass not being as heavy.  The scream before the chorus, and the chorus itself are slightly changed as well, along with a few lyrics.  An interesting note:  apparently Brock was dissatisfied with the original mix, and wanted a better version that he said would be funded personally, that he alone could hear.  Epic decided to fund it, and it got released in 2004.  Thanks, Wikipedia!

So there you have it, the proclaimed ‘masterpiece’ of Modest Mouse.  Personally, it’s my favorite album from them, and definitely solid.  There’s a few tracks I could deal with skipping during a playthrough, but you should definitely give them all a listen your first time.  If you don’t know what to expect from Modest Mouse, I have a feeling you’ll know if you like or hate it pretty quickly.

Buy This Album

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One Response to “The Moon and Antarctica – Modest Mouse”

  1. […] did very well on previous records and refines them a bit. I don’t think it’s as good as The Moon and Antarctica, but it comes pretty damn close. I’d definitely recommend it for consideration and if you […]

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