A long time ago, we lost sight of something fundamental: The connection we had to the natural world has been severed—maybe permanently—and humanity has been left to suffer as prisoners to the cerebral and abstract. This is what Modest Mouse’s first album in eight years, Strangers to Ourselves, argues.
You can see it in the album cover, depicting a sprawling trailer park built around a few square metres of greenery, and lyrics like “Well, we’re the human race/ We’re goin’ to party out of this place/ And then move on” require no further explanation. Modest Mouse fans will recognize this bleakness from earlier albums, but singer Isaac Brock has clearly spent the past near-decade choosing his words very carefully. Every line is delivered with maximum force, and there’s a sense of urgency and timeliness that was missing from previous albums.
This is also Modest Mouse’s most technically proficient album since The Moon and Antarctica (2000). Blaring guitars over the rambling patter of Brock’s lyrics grab you by the shoulders early in the album and don’t let go until it’s over. Songs like “Sugar Boats” dredge up memories of Modest Mouse’s avant-garde influences as accordions and strings build into a crescendo of exuberance. “Lampshade on Fire” makes a solid case for bass being the most important instrument in a band. Brock’s lyrics serve as a counterbalance to the upbeat music, reminding us that part of our humanity is missing—or maybe it was never there to begin with.