Review: ‘Strangers to Ourselves’ is not the demise of Modest Mouse, despite criticism

Katie Smith, Editor-in-Chief

When listening to Modest Mouse’s newly released album “Strangers to Ourselves,” do not go in expecting to hear updated variations of “We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank,” or “Good News for People who Love Bad News.”

Its first album in eight years, released on March 16, has received criticism from even some of the band’s self-proclaimed biggest fans, who have said the album sounds forced and unauthentic in comparison to the bands “older sound.”

This album requires a few listens.

What you can rely on, however, is a signature melancholy tone and a unique and funky distortion of instruments.

The fact is, it does sound different from the popular “Float On” feel fans have become used to.

That being said, although this album has hits and misses it doesn’t deserve some of the harsh criticism it’s received.

“Strangers to Ourselves” is a 15-track album with a few songs in particular that deserve discussion, including the fourth track, “Pistol,” which has received the most criticism.

The album does nothing to prepare its listeners for “Pistol,” and I would argue that the lack of warning is a contributing reason fans have rejected it.

Let’s lay it out there: this song is weird, but that doesn’t make awful.

It reminds me of something that could easily sneak on to a Man Man album, but the fact that it sounds nothing like Modest Mouse may be

off-putting to audiences.

The sixth track, however, “The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box,” is my personal favorite on the album alongside “Coyote” and “The Best Room,” which embodies the overall theme of the album.

It conveys an acknowledgement of life’s frustrating monotony and “first-world problems,” while other songs on the album simultaneously encourage humanity to swallow hard and push forward anyway.

The lyrics express the acceptance of a culture’s self-absorption and hopelessness:

“The best room they have/Is the last room you want/The bathroom’s outside

Police tape is tied/To the doorknobs of rooms/Nine through thirty-two/These Western concerns/We beg while we chew . . .”

While maintaining its traditions of telling striking narratives, it’s clear Modest Mouse went for a funkier sound on this album, but that does not mean they sold out.

It is not surprising the band would grow and change as both individuals and a group over the course of eight years.

As a band evolves, so does their sound and you can expect the audience to change as well.

I don’t think the mentality listening to this album should be exclusively that the band sold out for a new audience or the old audience isn’t accepting of change, since both ideas are at play.

Katie Smith is a senior journalism major.

She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]