Modest Mouse is an indie giant—the band knows that when you finally get to see them again, it’ll be in a massive venue, or maybe even a music festival. And thankfully, its first album in six years, The Golden Casket, is concerned primarily with fun, lending itself exactly to that kind of concert-going experience. What else could you expect from a record that opens with a song called “Fuck Your Acid Trip”? (And yes, the song does actually sound like an acid trip.)
Golden Casket tries to shake things up. Strangers To Ourselves felt like a less exciting version of Modest Mouse’s biggest records. It didn’t work too well, failing to stack up against its promising, catchy single, “Lampshades On Fire.” But Golden Casket explores a poppier sound that’s unlike anything Modest Mouse has done. Fans could argue that previous hits like “We’ve Got Everything” and “Float On” veer into pop territory. But new songs like “We Are Between,” “Leave A Light On,” and “Walking And Running” sound like 2010s blog-rock—specifically recalling Foals’ Total Life Forever era.
That’s not the only adjustment. Songs like “Transmitting Receiving” and “Never Fuck A Spider On A Fly” add electronic elements, and while it seems like it shouldn’t work for Modest Mouse, somehow it does. With the band releasing this record the same month as Sleater-Kinney’s Path Of Wellness, the comparison between how the two legacy indie acts have handled the changes in their career over the past two decades is unavoidable. Sleater-Kinney seems to be taking itself too seriously, with Carrie Brownstein constantly trying to reinvent the band in its new era, but losing its spark in the process by overthinking how to sound fresh; Modest Mouse, in contrast, sounds aware that no matter what it does, fans will always latch on to hits that are over a decade old. The group isn’t concerned with creating a new “era” of Modest Mouse, but rather toying with what it can create that the band members haven’t before, without being concerned over alienating its audience; after all, “Float On” will always be a massively overplayed hit, so to some degree, they have nothing to lose.
Some fans may be perplexed by this move, but it feels fun. And that seems to be the basis of Golden Casket. Bandleader Isaac Brock isn’t fixated on taking himself seriously. But that doesn’t mean the album’s devoid of tracks that feel like the Modest Mouse fans know and love. (“Wooden Soldiers” directly hearkens back to the We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank era, while being one of the softest, simplest songs on the album.) As long as you go into Golden Casket knowing there will only be some traces of the old Modest Mouse, there’s a lot to enjoy.