The Golden Casket
It’s interesting to think that of all the bands that exploded out of the Pacific Northwest in the 90s that Modest Mouse would be one that has crafted an endearing legacy. That isn’t to say that the band was ever bad. It’s the opposite, in fact. The three album run of 1996’s This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About, 1997’s The Lonesome Crowded West and 2000’s The Moon & Antarctica, was amazing but showed a band that seemed to be interested in achieving any kind of mainstream success.
All that changed with 2004’s Good News for People Who Love Bad News and that album’s breakout song “Float On“. Modest Mouse, while already well regarded, was now on the cover of magazines and appearing on television show’s like The O.C. Over the years since, Issac Brock and company have adorned huge festival stages and maintained an interesting, if not overly exciting, repertoire. This changes with their new release The Golden Casket. The album comes off as a distillation of things that Brock and the band have been doing over time but more pointed and refined. While definitely feeling like the successor to Good News for People Who Love Bad News, the album never feels like a band chasing their past. It’s surprisingly fresh and full of the kind of brooding you would associate with Brock’s songwriting but the edges here feel softened, shiny and secure.
The album kicks off spectacularly with “Fuck Your Acid Trip”. Brock somewhat sternly and sweetly decries being stuck out in the woods doing the titular drug as it’s his weekend to be with the family. It’s hilarious and so very catchy. Musically it sets the tone for the record. A staccato psychedelic groove that splinters and blows itself wide open in its ear worm of a chorus. “We’re Lucky” showcases one of the reasons Modest Mouse has endured. Brock has a seemingly simplistic melodic sense that has no other option but to bury itself deep within your head. The track builds itself up to a glorious climax, complete with a wailing trumpet and overlapping vocals, before calmly settling itself back down with Brock liltingly humming a “da da da da dah”. On the lengthy epic “Lace Your Shoes (NU)” Brock mulls over his young child’s future. “I hate that this will happen but know that it’ll happen, someone is going to be cruel”, when singing about them attending school. The song beautifully drones for the majority of its running time until Brock screams “The sunshine pours out of your mouth”, and it is as sweetly affecting as it is musically exciting.
Clocking in at almost an hour, The Golden Casket, never outwears its welcome. Six years have passed since the last Modest Mouse record and it is so nice to hear them come back still sounding excited to be making records. “Leave A Light On” employs some perfect gang vocals and an absolutely massive sounding organ and shows you that Brock and Modest Mouse still sound as crisp, bright and vigorous as they did twenty-five years ago.