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Modest Mouse: Building Nothing Out Of Something


Modest Mouse

Album: Building Nothing Out Of Something

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The most compelling thing about Modest Mouse is what it does with the mess it makes, musically and otherwise. On record, it generates a challenging mixture of crashing discord, roiling energy, and vocals that aren't afraid to come off as braying or tuneless. On tour, it's a crapshoot whether the band will be focused and intense, scattershot and self-indulgent, drunk, or some combination thereof. And in life, it's been dogged by allegations of drug abuse and even rape, which certainly haven't quieted its detractors. Still, Modest Mouse's short but checkered past—the band members are still only in their early 20s—didn't stop it from landing at the center of a major-label bidding war. Epic Records won the indie-cred enhancement it was looking for, even if the financial rewards will likely come from tax write-offs: This is a band whose finest moments, like the brilliant "Teeth Like God's Shoeshine" from The Lonesome Crowded West, aren't exactly radio-friendly. (The easiest point of comparison is Archers Of Loaf, which was similarly hyped, similarly cantankerous, similarly college-radio-friendly, and similarly commercially poisonous once it hit the majors.) Modest Mouse's Epic debut comes out this spring, but in the meantime, its old label bids farewell with Building Nothing Out Of Something, an odds-and-ends collection that's in many ways the band's definitive recording. Drawing from any number of singles, EPs, and vinyl-only editions of albums, it runs the gamut from oddly lovely and winsome ("Baby Blue Sedan," "Sleepwalkin'") to irritating and tuneless ("All Nite Diner"), to hypnotically propulsive and fully formed ("Never Ending Math Equation," "A Life Of Arctic Sounds"). An inconsistent, frequently great collection documenting an inconsistent, frequently great career, Building Nothing Out Of Something should only heighten anticipation for the inconsistency and frequent greatness to come.