Sunday, September 7, 2014

Good Will Hunting

Good Will Hunting (1997)
Drama, 126 minutes
Directed by Gus Van Sant
Starring Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Stellan SkarsgÄrd, Ben Affleck and Minnie Driver

It's been a while since I watched Robin Williams act, and Good Will Hunting is the first time I have seen one of his performances since he died. Although I am a fan of his comedy, I much prefer his serious roles. Movies such as Dead Poets Society, One Hour Photo and Insomnia proved that Williams was more than a comedian. In Good Morning Vietnam, he was able to blend comedy with drama to good effect. It's fair to say that Good Will Hunting would be far less effective without Williams in one of his two best performances (Dead Poets Society).

The story consists of several important elements that are present in all or most of our lives, and one that is far less common:

Will Hunting (Damon) is a genius, but he spends his life hanging out with his buddies from Southie. To him, friendship is far more important than his potential. He works in construction, spends his free time in bars, and isn't afraid to pick fights without any real reason to do so. He's the central character in the film, as you might suspect after reading the title. As the story unfolds, we learn more about his past, his motivations, and his possible future.


Ben Affleck is convincing as Hunting's most loyal friend, and it's obviously a friendship that exists outside the confines of the movie.

Gerald Lambeau is a professor at MIT, and recognizes that Hunting has an exceptional mind, even though he's a janitor and not a student at the institution. Lambeau tries to get Hunting psychological help, while developing and exploiting his genius as a mathematician.

The final key element is romance. Hunting spots Skylar at a bar and manages to win her attention. His upbringing makes him a difficult romantic partner, but I won't ruin the story for you.


As I sat watching the movie, I found that I connected with it on several levels. The writing is superb, and thoroughly deserved the Oscar for best screenplay. The interactions between these very real characters was authentic and easy to imagine. Everything just fits together perfectly. I was reminded why drama is my favorite genre by far. This story is about something important. While few of us understand true genius, we can certainly identify with the problems and obstacles that life throws at us from time to time.

Imagine that you have a similar level of intelligence to that of Will Hunting. Perhaps you do? What would you choose to do with it? Is money your definition of success? If so, you would have numerous paths to pursue to reach that rather easy goal. Would you prefer to make a real difference in the world in your chosen field? Would you take a step back and figure out what truly makes you happy, even if it meant that your genius would be rarely utilized? Would you give it all up for the right romantic partner?


I like movies that reach me emotionally and make me think, and Good Will Hunting does all that and more. The script is insightful when you consider that it was written by two men in their mid-20s. Williams gives a memorable performance and Damon is right up there with him. Minnie Driver is believable as the interesting romantic interest, and the story is well-paced and intelligent. Good Will Hunting will appeal to anyone who enjoys drama, the psychological reasons that drive our choices, and human behavior in general.

Overall score 4.5/5

Return to index of every review on the site.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

The lonesome crowded quest - ranking the Top 5


It's been a long journey, filled with torment and agony, but I'm finally ready to rank my favorite five songs by Modest Mouse. The five in question come from three albums and one EP. It's taken a week of effort to get to this point, and I have to wonder how much the order would change if I repeated this exercise six months down the line.

I don't know whether anyone out there has followed this project from start to finish, but thanks for sticking with me if you have. Even if you violently disagree with my assessment, I hope that you appreciate the effort that went into the decisions. If you're still reading, I'm sure that you're a huge fan, as I am.

I've know for a couple of days three of the songs that would make my final five, but the other two were in doubt right up until I completed the previous installment in this futile series. If you're keeping track, you'll know which five songs are still under consideration. If not, I'll keep you in suspense a little longer by ranking them in reverse order. As always, I'll include a video link and the lyrics.


5. 3rd Planet - from The Moon & Antarctica


Everything that keeps me together is falling apart
I've got this thing that I consider my only art of fucking people over
My boss just quit the job says
He's goin' out to find blind spots and he'll do it

The third planet is sure that they're being watched
By an eye in the sky that can't be stopped
When you get to the promise land
Your gonna shake that eye's hand

Your heart felt good it was drippin' pitch and made of wood
And your hands and knees felt cold and wet on the grass to me
Outside naked, shiverin' looking blue
From the cold sunlight that's reflected off the moon
Baby cum angels fly around you, reminding you
We used to be three and not just two

And that's how the world began
And that's how the world will end

A third had just been made and we were swimming in the water
Didn't know, then was it a son was it a daughter
When it occurred to me that the animals are swimming
Around in the water in the oceans, in our bodies
And another had been found, another ocean on the planet
Given that our blood is just like the Atlantic
And how

The universe is shaped exactly like the earth
If you go straight long enough, you'll end up where you were

3rd Planet works well as the opening track on The Moon & Antarctica. It sets the scene and asks questions about existence, our origins, and the meaning of life. I've mentioned several times that the songs on that album have the best overall flow of any Modest Mouse album. It feels wrong to split them up, but this one deserves a place in my Top 5. It's quiet and introspective for the most part, but the lyrics are among the best that Brock has ever written.


4. Exit Does Not Exist - from This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About


Does not exist, take an exit
Does not exist, take an exit

I hear voices insinuatin'
Feeds me lyrics to this  song that I am sayin'

Sunlight 7:20 PM, early September
Standin' lookin' at a photograph
That you do not remember bein' taken
You look out of breath and me like I am fakin'

As a matter of fact
I don't recall this photo being taken
You don't even actually exist
So I just started shakin'

Does not exist, take an exit
Does not exist, take an exit

This last entry from the band's debut is full of raw excitement. Jeremiah Green's drumming opens the track and is a vital component for the duration of the song. The vocals are right on the edge and almost unnerving, and everything blends with the desperation of the guitar. I imagine a lot of adrenaline flowing for both the band and the audience when this song is played live. It does allow us room to breathe around the halfway mark, but then it finishes with a flourish. I'm excited every time I hear this song. The swirling guitar provides the perfect ending as Green continues to go crazy on the drums.


3. The Whale Song - from No One's First and You're Next


I guess I am a scout
So I should find a way out
So everyone can find a way out

They keep us in
To pull us out
I'm rising up
Wish I was sinking down
And it's not like
There was warning
We were happy
And it's not like
There was mourning
In the warning

I know I am a scout
I should've found a way out
So everyone can find a way out

I know I am a scout
I should've found a way out
So everyone can find a way out

Instead of seeing a neighbor out
God, I wish I would've found a way out
It's the last time
We were happy
Ever happy

I know I was a scout
I should've found a way out
So everyone could find a way out

Well I know I was a scout
I should've found a way out
So everyone could find a way out

Well I know I was a scout
I should've found a way out
So everyone could find a way out

Every time I hear the opening bass line of The Whale Song, I start to grin. When I first discovered it, I had to hear it at least three times a day or life wasn't worth living. The structure of the song is exactly right. It gradually builds and hits us with the lyrics halfway through. It seems to be about the band's success, and how they moved away from a small label and humble beginnings, to a situation which wasn't entirely comfortable. The second half of the song is more intense than the first, and provides an almost orgasmic release as it reaches its conclusion. There is no other Modest Mouse song that indulges the guitars quite like this one.


2. Doin' the Cockroach - from The Lonesome Crowded West


I was in heaven, I was in hell
Believe in neither, but fear them as well

This one's a doctor
This one's a lawyer
This one's a cash fiend
Takin' your money

Back of the metro
Ride on the greyhound
Drunk on the Amtrak
Please, shut up

Another rider, he was a talker
Talkin' 'bout TV
Please, shut up

This one's a crazer, daydreamin' disaster
The origin of junk food, ruttin' through garbage
Tasty but worthless, dogs eat their own shit
We're doin' the cockroach, yeah

Doin' the cockroach, yeah
Doin' the cockroach, yeah, yeah
Alright, not bad

Doin' the cockroach, yeah
Doin' the cockroach, yeah, yeah
Alright, not bad

Doin' the cockroach, yeah
Doin' the cockroach, yeah, yeah
Alright, not bad not bad

One year, twenty years, forty years, fifty years
Down the road in your life
You'll look in the mirror
And say, "My parents are still alive"

You move your mouth, you shake your tongue
You vibrate my eardrums
You're saying words
But you know I ain't listenin'

You're walking down the street
Your face, your lips, your hips
Your eyes, they meet
You're not hungry though

Well, late last winter down below the equator
They had a summer that would make you blister
Oh, my mind is all made up
So I'll have to be comin'

Well, late last winter down below the equator
They had a summer that would make you blister
Oh, my mind is all made up
So I'll have to sleep in it

Well, late last winter down below the equator
They had a summer that would make you blister
And oh, my mind is all, oh my mind is all
Oh, my mind is all made up
So I'll have to sleep in it

When I started this project, I knew that Doin' the Cockroach had strong claims to be my overall number one. As things turned out, it's just a hair behind in second place. The biggest reason that I like it is the music. It rocks, it flows, it spirals, it goes off at weird tangents, but it all makes perfect sense. I often drive along shouting 'not bad not bad' or 'please shut up' while it is playing, and then realize that I must look like an idiot. Who cares? Cockroach is such an enthusiastic rant that it's almost impossible to dislike the bouncy rhythm and all out exuberance. How the hell is there a Modest Mouse song better than this? I'm really not sure.


1. Teeth Like God's Shoeshine - from The Lonesome Crowded West


From the top of the ocean - Yeah
To the bottom of the sky - Goddamn
Well, I get claustrophobic
I can, you know that I can, well

From the top of the ocean - Yeah
To the bottom of the sky - Goddamn
Well I get claustrophobic
I can, you know that I can

And he said...
"I am not allowed much danger
Keep in line you're an old friend stranger
You'll burn me in effigy, and I'll burn you in effigy"

Well, a rattlesnake up in Buffalo, Montana
He bit the leg of the old sheriff
Ha! That boy fell down on his harelip Ow! Ow!
Well I, I might be wrong
But you, you tag along
And we, we all been wronged
And I get dizzier by the mile
Said hell ya! The money's spent
Went to the county line
And paid the rent I said, "Uh-oh"
I said "Uh-oh"

Oh! If you could compact your conscience
Oh! And you might...
Oh! If you could bottle and sell it you might have done
Oh! And you might...
Oh! If you could compact your conscience
And sell it save it for another time
You know you might have to use it

And the television's on
Go to the grocery store, buy some new friends,
And find out the beginning, the end, and the best of it
Well, do you need a lot of what you've got to survive?

Here's the man with teeth like God's shoeshine
He sparkles, shimmers, shines
Let's all have another Orange Julius
Thick syrup standing in lines
The malls are the soon to be ghost towns
Well so long, farewell, good-bye

Take 'em all for the long ride
And you'll go around town
No one wants to be uptight anymore
You can be ashamed
Or be so proud of what you've done
But not no one, not now, not ever or anyone
Take 'em all for the sense of happiness
That comes from hurting deep down inside

Or you can add it up and give a shit, give a shit
Go to the family doctor it's all worth it, all worth it
And it's all wrong, and its all gone
Or, you can add it up and give a shit, give a shit
I'm on the corner of this and this and this and this
All wrong, and it's all, all wrong

Here's the man with teeth like God's shoeshine
He sparkles, shimmers, shines
Let's all have another Orange Julius
Thick syrup standing in lines
The malls are the soon to be ghost towns
well so long, farewell, good-bye

And the telephone goes off
Pick the receiver up, try to meet ends
And find out the beginning, the end and the best of it

OH MY GODDAMN

Take 'em all for the long ride
And you'll go around town
No one wants to be uptight anymore
You can be ashamed
Or be so proud of what you've done
But not no one, not now, not ever or anyone

So, there you have it. Teeth Like God's Shoeshine is officially my favorite song by Modest Mouse. It was a close call, and on another day it could all be different. I like it because it's full of energy, and contains almost everything that I like about the band in just one song. It has great lyrics, fantastic flow, multiple layers, and showcases Brock's vocal range. The song is relentless and assaults you with information. It's quite a ride.

Here's a recap of the entire series

Songs 40 through 59 in alphabetical order:

Alone Down There
Breakthrough
Bukowski
Dashboard
Education
Florida
Lives
Lounge  
March Into the Sea
Might
Missed the Boat
Perfect Disguise
Polar Opposites
Satellite Skin
Satin in a Coffin
Shit Luck
Space Travel is Boring
The Cold Part
The View
What People Are Made Of

Songs 26 through 39 in alphabetical order:

Never Ending Math Equation
Interstate 8
Float On
Convenient Parking
Lounge (Closing Time)
Truckers Atlas
Gravity Rides Everything
A Different City
Paper Thin Walls
Life Like Weeds
Custom Concern
Novocain Stain
Parting of the Sensory
Fly Trapped in a Jar

The Top 25:

1.      Teeth Like God's Shoeshine
2.      Doin' the Cockroach
3.      The Whale Song
4.      Exit Does Not Exist
5.      3rd Planet
6.      Spitting Venom
7.      Dramamine
8.      Heart Cooks Brain
9.      Talking Shit About a Pretty Sunset
10.    Tiny Cities Made of Ashes
11.    Dark Center of the Universe
12.    Tundra/Desert
13.    Trailer Trash
14.    The Stars are Projectors
15.    Edit the Sad Parts
16.    Bury Me with It
17.    Ocean Breathes Salty
18.    Broke
19.    Head South
20.    Steam Engenius
21.    Cowboy Dan
22.    Black Cadillacs
23.    I Came as a Rat
24.    Invisible
25.    The World at Large

If I assign points to the Top 25, with The World at Large receiving 1 point and Teeth Like God's Shoeshine receiving 25 points, the albums, EPs and compilations would be ranked like this:

The Lonesome Crowded West - 85 points
The Moon & Antarctica - 67 points
This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About - 65 points
We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank - 26 points
Interstate 8 - 25 points
Good News for People Who Love Bad News - 24 points
No One's First and You're Next - 23 points
Building Nothing Out of Something - 8 points

That confirms my gut feeling that The Lonesome Crowded West is my favorite album by Modest Mouse, and that The Moon & Antarctica is second. What surprises me is how close This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About gets to the top two. As I said at the outset, all of these releases contain plenty of great songs. It's almost impossible to accurately rank them, but I have done my best. There's probably not another person on earth who would come up with the same Top 25, or even the same Top 10.

Feel free to comment and add your own selections.



The lonesome crowded quest - ranking songs 6-10


After a week of intense writing, plus a lot of soul searching and associated anguish, I'm ready to rank songs six through 10. For those of you who need to know, the remaining 10 songs come from four albums and one EP. There are three songs on the list that I know for sure belong in the Top 5, so my initial task for this round was to listen to the other seven to decide which five to cut. Then, of course, the almost impossible task of ranking them.


10. Tiny Cities Made of Ashes - from The Moon & Antarctica


We're goin' down the road towards tiny cities made of ashes
I'm gonna hit you on the face
I'm gonna punch you in your glasses, oh no

I just got a message that said, "Yeah hell is freezin' over"
I got a phone call from the Lord sayin'
"Hey boy get a sweater, right now"

So we're drinkin', drinkin', drinkin', drinkin', coca coca cola
I can feel it rollin' right on down, oh right on down my throat
And as we're headed down the road towards tiny cities made of ashes
I'm gonna get dressed up in plastic gonna shake hands with the masses oh no

Does anybody know a way that a body could get away?
Does anybody know a way?
Does anybody know a way that a body could get away?
Does anybody know a way?

We're goin' down the road towards tiny cities made of ashes
I'm gonna hit you on the face
I'm gonna punch you in your glasses, oh no

I'm wearin' myself a T-shirt that says "The world is my ashtray"
Our hearts pump dust and our hair's all gray
And I just got a message sayin' that hell has frozen over"
I got a phone call from the Lord sayin'
"Hey boy get a sweater, right now"

Does anybody know a way that a body could get away?
Does anybody know a way?
Does anybody know a way?

We're drinkin', drinkin', drinkin', drinkin', coca coca cola
I can feel it rollin' right on down, oh right on down my throat
And as we're headed down the road
Towards tiny cities made of ashes
I'm gonna lay down in the spa
Where they coat you in molasses, right now

Does anybody know a way that a body could get away?
Does anybody know a way?
Does anybody know a way that a body could get away?
Does anybody know a way?

I'm a little bit surprised that Tiny Cities Made of Ashes didn't crack my Top 5. When I sent a friend a track to introduce her to the band, this was the one I chose. Her interest was definitely piqued. Maybe I subconsciously sent something more suited to her taste? This is not a typical Modest Mouse song. The bass is more prominent than on most tracks, and it's full of little gimmicks. The vocals range from ranting to calm and reasonable. The guitar spirals and weaves in and out of the song. What I really like is the way the intricate guitar overlays some of the vocals. If you focus on what is going on in the background, you'll hear what I mean. The outro is pretty great too. I love the song, but apparently there are nine I love more. If it has a fault at all, maybe it's that it contains one gimmick too many?


9. Talking Shit About a Pretty Sunset - from This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About


Oh noose, tied myself in
Tied myself too tight

Looking kind of anxious
In your cross-armed stance
Like a bad tempered prom queen
At a homecoming dance

And I claim I'm not excited with my life any more
So I blame this town, this job, these friends
The truth is it's myself

I'm trying to understand myself
And pinpoint where I am
I finally get it figured out
I've change the whole damn plan

Oh noose, tied myself in
Tied myself too tight
Oh noose, tied myself in
Tied myself too tight

Talking shit about a pretty sunset
Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon
I've changed my mind so much I can't even trust it
My mind changed me so much I can't even trust myself

This song always remind me of my friends. They suffer from a fetish that makes them move house about once a year. The latest move had them swooning at how beautiful the sunset was, as if the sun was theirs and everyone else has an inferior version. It's certainly nothing to do with the scenery around their property. Oh, and now they are moving again, so who knows whether the sunset will be as pretty? That memory aside, I love Talking Shit About a Pretty Sunset for a number of more personal reasons. It's beautiful musically, but what really makes it stand out is the honesty in the lyrics. This is about a young man realizing that he has the power to change his life, and that he can't trust his decisions. On more than one occasion, I've been close to tears listening to the song. What an image the bad tempered prom queen conjures up! Great lyrics, and music that flows beautifully throughout the song.


8. Heart Cooks Brain - from The Lonesome Crowded West


Slow walk
It's a land mine
It's a coal mine
It's a bad thought

I'm on my way to god don't know
My brain's the burger and my heart's the coal
I'm trying to get my head clear
I push things out through my mouth but get refilled through my ears
I get refilled through my ears
I get refilled through my ears

I'm on my way to god don't know or even care
My brain's the weak heart, and my heart's the long stairs
My heart's the long stairs, my heart's the long stairs

Inland from Vancouver's shores
The ravens and the seagulls push each other inward and outward
Inward and outward

In this place that I call home
My brain's a cliff, and my heart's the bitter buffalo
My heart's the bitter buffalo

We tore one down, and erected another there
The match of the century: absence versus thin air

I'm on my way to god don't know
My brain's the burger and my heart's the coal
In this life that we call home
The years go fast and the days go so slow
The days go so slow
The days go slow

I'm on my way to god don't know
My brain's the burger and my heart's the coal
I'm trying to get my head clear
I push things out through my mouth but get refilled through my ears
I get refilled through my ears
I get refilled

I'm on my way to god don't know or even care
My brain's the weak heart, and my heart's the long stairs
My heart's the long stairs, my heart's the long stairs

Inland from Vancouver's shores
The ravens and the seagulls push each other inward and outward
Inward and outward

In this place that I call home
My brain's a cliff, and my heart's the bitter buffalo
My heart's the bitter buffalo

We tore one down, and erected another there
The match of the century: absence versus thin air
Absence versus thin air

In this life that we call home
The years go fast and the days go slow
The days go so slow

It's slow and repetitive, but strangely hypnotic. Heart Cooks Brain could be the soundtrack to a documentary about exploring another planet. It sounds inquisitive and seems to be searching for something. I'm glad that the bitter buffalo hasn't jumped off the cliff yet. Like Tiny Cities Made of Ashes, there's a lot going on in the layers beneath the lyrics. The scratchy guitar adds texture and weight to the song. Incidentally, it's perfectly positioned on the album, offering a reflective pause between the rants of Teeth Like God's Shoeshine and Convenient Parking.


7. Dramamine - from This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About


Traveling, swallowing, Dramamine
Feeling spaced breathing out Listerine
I'd said what I'd said that I'd tell you
And that you'd killed the better part of me

If you could just milk it for everything
I've said what I've said and you know what I mean
But I still can't focus on anything
We kiss on the mouth but still cough down our sleeves

Traveling, swallowing, Dramamine
Look at your face like you're killed in a dream
And you think you've figured out everything
I think I know my geography pretty damn well

You say what you need so you'll get more
If you could just milk it for everything
I've said what I've said and you know what I mean
But I can't still focus on anything

What can I say about Dramamine? The 75-second intro may be the best on any Modest Mouse song. It makes me enter an almost dreamlike state. That mood is broken slightly by the way the lyrics are punctuated with louder bursts of noise, but the overall journey still retains that escapist vibe. I'm shocked that it isn't in my Top 5. The loops at the very end of the song don't really work for me, and I would rather the music had just faded out. That's a minor quibble because Dramamine is close to perfection.


6. Spitting Venom - from We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank


We were spitting venom
At most everyone we know
If the damned gave us a road map
Then we'd know just where to go

Now let it drop
Let it all drop
Let it all drop
Oh, let it all fall off

Well you were talking soda pop
You were talking quite a lot
The opinions that I do not give
The opinions I ain't got

So let it drop
Let it all drop
Let it all drop
Let it all fall off there, oh

Well, you were spitting venom
At most everyone you know
If you truly knew the gravity
You'd know which way to go

Well, let it drop
Let it all drop
Let it all drop
Oh let it all fall off

My ears were pressed so firmly
Right against your mouth to hear
When you tried to spit the venom out
Your words were not so clear, now drop

Hold on to what you need
We've got a knack for fucked up history
Hold on to what you need
We've got a knack for messed up history

Well we went downtown
And we sat in the rain
Both looking one direction and waiting for a train of thought over
Thought over

I didn't know you kept track
I didn't know there was a score
Well it looks like you're the winner and I ain't gonna play no more
It's over, game over

Well we walked real stiff and our canes tapped the ground
You hit me with yours
And said "you're gonna' stare me down"
It's over, oh it's over

You can say what you want but don't act like you care
It takes more than one person
To decide what's fair
It's over, think it over

You were spitting venom
At most everyone you know
If the damned gave you a road map
Then you'd know just where to go

So we carried all the groceries in
While hauling out the trash
And if this doesn't make us motionless
I do not know what can is to be said, so's to say

What a rotten thing to say
Such an awful thing to say
I didn't mean to bite you so really
What always did, what always did, what always had to sling

So let it drop
Let it all drop
Let it all drop
Oh, let it all fall off

Let it drop
Let it all drop
Let it drop
Oh, let it all fall off

Cheer up baby
It wasn't always quite so bad
For every venom then that came out
The antidote was had

Cheer up baby
It wasn't always quite so bad
For every venom then that came out
The antidote was had

Cheer up baby
It wasn't always quite so bad
For every venom then that came out
The antidote was had

Spitting Venom may be the most complete song Modest Mouse has released thus far. It was stuck in my head for days when I first heard it. I'm absolutely certain that it is my favorite track from We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. The stark presentation of the lyrics in the song's opening work wonderfully, but when the full band kicks in at the 87-second mark, it becomes a different beast entirely. Brock's lyrics come thick and fast, with urgency and (sorry) venom. The song ends with a symphony of sound, that sometimes feels too long, but somehow always leaves me wanting more. There are five songs better than this in the band's catalog? Yes, I think so. They will be revealed in the final installment.

Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 1
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 2
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 3
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 4
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 5
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 6
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 8  


Saturday, August 9, 2014

The lonesome crowded quest - ranking songs 11-15


In the last installment, I revealed songs 16 through 20. There are still six albums or EPs represented as I rank the next five songs. Links to the posts leading up to this point can be found at the bottom of the page. I'll stick to the same format, linking to a video and noting the lyrics. At this stage, every song I eliminate makes me feel like I am committing a crime.


15. Edit the Sad Parts - from Interstate 8


Sometimes all I really want to feel is love
Sometimes I'm angry that I feel so angry
Sometimes my feelings get in the way
Of what I really feel I needed to say

If you stand in a circle
Then you'll all have a back to bite
Back logged voices on the seven wonders

We're all so funny but he's lost his joke now
A communication from the one lined joke
A stand up comic and a rock musician
Making so much noise you don't know when to listen

Why are you judging people so damn hard?
You're taking your point of views a bit too far
I made my shoes shine with my coal
But the polish didn't shine the hole

If you stand in a circle
Then you'll all have a back to bite
Back logged voices on the seven wonders

We're all so funny but he's lost his joke now
A communication from the one lined joke
A stand up comic and a rock musician
Making so much noise you don't know when to listen

Think it over
There's the air of the hype of the high rollers
We're coming to getcha
Think it over
You ain't got nothing 'til ya know her

It's raw, introspective, meaningful, heartfelt, and the guitar is awesome. What more could you want from a song? I particularly like the first verse, which contains lyrics that almost everyone can relate to. This song soars at times, and chugs along in determined fashion. The layers reveal themselves after repeated listens and it makes me want to pull out Interstate 8 and listen to it right now.


14. The Stars Are Projectors - from The Moon & Antarctica


In the last second of life, they're gonna show you how
How they run this show, sure, run it into the ground
In the last second of life, they're gonna show you how
How they run this show, sure, run it into the ground

In the last second of life, they're gonna show you how
How they run this show, sure, run it into the ground
In the last second of life, they're gonna show you how

The stars are projectors, yeah
Projectin' our lives down to this planet earth
The stars are projectors, yeah
Projectin' our minds down to this planet earth

Everyone wants a double feature
They wanna be their own damn teacher, and how
All the stars are projectors, yeah
Projectin' our lives down to this planet earth

It's all about moderate climates
You gotta be cold and be hot for sure
It's all about the moderate climates
You wanna be blessed and be cursed for sure

All the stars are projectors, yeah
Projectin' our lives down to this planet earth
All the stars are projectors, yeah
Projectin' our lives down to this planet earth

Everyone wants a double feature
They want to be in their own damn teacher, and how
All the stars are projectors, yeah
Projectin' our lives down to this planet earth

We've got the harder part, you've got the kinder heart
And it's true
I've got the easy part, I've got the harder heart
Ain't that true?

Right wing, left wing, chicken wing
It's built on findin' the easier ways through
God is a woman and the woman is
An animal that animals man, and that's you

Was there a need for creation?
That was hidden in a math equation and that's this?
Where do circles begin?
Where do circles begin?

I could easily imagine Syd Barrett singing this song. The subject matter touches on the really big questions. The idea that the stars are projectors is clever in itself, but there's even more to take in when listening to the song. It's a sprawling journey, with mystical guitar and vocals to match. At nearly nine minutes long, it goes through a number of phases, allowing the band to rock out at times. I still think that it works even better when you listen to the whole album, but it's fantastic on its own as well.


13. Trailer Trash - from The Lonesome Crowded West


Eating snow flakes with plastic forks
And a paper plate of course, you think of everything
Short love with a long divorce and a couple of kids of course
They don't mean anything

Live in trailers with no class
Goddamn I hope I can pass, high school means nothing
Taking heartache with hard work
Goddamn I am such a jerk, I can't do anything

And I shout that you're all fakes
And you should have seen the look on your face
And I guess that's what it takes
When comparing your bellyaches

And it's been a long time
Which agrees with this watch of mine
And I know that I miss you
And I'm sorry if I dissed you

Eating snow flakes with plastic forks
And a paper plate of course, you think of everything
Short love with a long divorce and a couple of kids of course
They don't mean anything

Live in trailers with no class
Goddamn I hope I can pass, high school means nothing
Taking heartache with hard work
Goddamn I am such a jerk, I can't do anything

And I shout that you're all fakes
And you should have seen the look on your face
And I guess that's what it takes
When comparing your bellyaches

And it's been a long time
Which agrees with this watch of mine
And I guess that I miss you
And I'm sorry if I dissed you

It's obvious during the 13-second into that Trailer Trash is going to be an incredible song. If it has a fault, it's that the lyrics are repeated in the second half of the song, but they are great observations on life. Picture Brock as a man in his early 20s, trapped in a grotty existence. He sings about things that people usually don't realize until middle age, if ever. It's a damning account of life in a trailer and the desperation of some of the people who live that way. He escaped it by becoming a musician, but many never have that chance. The opening verse is some of the best writing in any Modest Mouse song, and that's saying a lot. As for the music, it ranges from laid back guitar to soaring anthem by the end of the song. It's a classic.


12. Tundra/Desert - from This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About


Every sick, fickle fucker
Childhood's what makes ya
Till they treat ya like tundra
Weigh those opinions more like air than lead

Every planned occupation
Surefire disappointment up ahead
Till they treat ya like desert
See mirages of friendship, face turns red

Here's the soon to be anchor
Build bridges to nothing, you'll get nowhere
Every governor's mother knows
That their bread is buttered by Sam

And what about science?
They find proof and let you make your own decisions
Every child star wonders
If they have a future up ahead
Every kindhearted banker
I don't think there is one

Every winning opinion
I wish I had one
Every winning opinion
I wish I had one
Stand on platforms in water
Filling jars full of silence you'll get nowhere

Here's a song that seems directionless during the opening vocals, but it explodes into chaos after about 90 seconds. The wild guitar borders on insanity, but it just about holds itself together. Modest Mouse can produce structured songs with beautiful segments, but some of the songs can surprise you with their raw energy. I like it all.


11. Dark Center of the Universe - from The Moon & Antarctica


I might disintegrate into the thin air, if you'd like
I'm not the dark center of the universe, like you thought
I might disintegrate into the thin air, if you'd like
I'm not the dark center of the universe, like you thought

Well, it took a lot of work to be the ass that I am
And I'm real damn sure that anyone can, equally easily fuck you over
Well, died saying something, but didn't mean it
Everyone's life ends, but no one ever completes it
Dry or wet ice, they both melt and you're equally cheated

Well, it took a lot of work to be the ass that I am
And I'm really damn sure that anyone can, equally easily fuck you over
Well, an endless ocean landin' on an endless desert
Well, its funny as hell, but no one laughs when they get there
If you can't see the thin air than why the hell should you care?

Well, it took a lot of work to be the ass that I am
And I'm really damn sure that anyone can, equally easily fuck you over
Well, I'm sure you'd tell me you got nothing to say
But our voices shook hands the other day
If you can't see the thin air what the hell is in the way?

I might disintegrate into the thin air, if you'd like
I'm not the dark center of the universe, like you thought

Well, it took a lot of work to be the ass that I am
And I'm really damn sure that anyone can, equally easily fuck you over
Well, an endless ocean landin' on an endless desert
Well, its funny as hell, but no one laughs when they get there
If you can't see the thin air than why the hell should you care?

Well, it took a lot of work to be the ass that I am
And I'm real damn sure that anyone can, equally easily fuck you over
Well, died saying something, but didn't mean it
Everyone's life ends, but no one ever completes it
Dry or wet ice, they both melt and you're equally cheated

Well, it took a lot of work to be the ass that I am
And I'm really damn sure that anyone can, equally easily fuck you over
Well, I'm sure you'd tell me you got nothing to say
But our voices shook hands the other day
If you can't see the thin air what the hell is in the way?

The perfectly placed Dark Center of the Universe is one of the highlights on an album which doesn't contain a weak track. It begins quietly, with a meandering guitar intro, which helps to set the mood. The lyrics are somewhat repetitive, but the song succeeds because the driving guitar makes it so compelling. Like most of the band's songs, there's a lot hidden in the layers. Pick out the individual instruments and take note of what they are doing and you'll see what I mean.

Well it took a lot of work to rank the songs that I have
And I'm really damn sure that most of you think
That you easily could have ranked them better
The problem is they're all damn great
And every one them is a masterpiece
Try it and you might not feel so cheated

Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 1
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 2
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 3
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 4
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 5
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 7 
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 8  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The lonesome crowded quest - ranking songs 16-20


Yesterday's post took around three hours as I struggled to get the ranking correct for songs 21 through 25. I also encountered a problem with the lyrics for Invisible. Almost every lyric site had them woefully wrong. The very first line was listed as:

"Oh, well lesson dance and shoot to God a storm suffered owl"

Interesting to say the least. I couldn't find an official lyric online, so I reverted to the inner sleeve on the CD. I'm the guy who checks the weather online instead of looking out of the window. The CD sleeve had the full lyrics, but they were too small to make out. I ended up scanning it and finally arriving at my answer. The real lyric is:

"Well listen dancing shifter, got a strong cell phone arm"

Yeah, that makes a lot more sense.

I told you that because I wanted to give you a taste of the amount of effort I am putting into this project. Today's post will use the same format, with videos and lyrics, and I'll reveal the next five songs.


20. Steam Engenius - from We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank


I was born in a factory.
Far away from the milky teat.
What's the use?
Oh, what's the use?

You cheered as I was split in half.
A mechanical, sacrificial calf for you.
Oh, all for you.

Steam engenius you see?
Steam engenius enough to answer anything you need.
But what's the use?

Human nature was installed in me.
Well I did what's right, but naturally it wasn't natural.
Still not my fault.
No.

I held in my hands the beating heart of a robot.
He lost his car, it was sitting there crying out, waiting in the parking lot just for you.
What a waste of time, what a waste of words, what a waste of strength.
Well I spoke in binary and you for volume and for dizzying length.

I was born in a factory.
Far away from the milky teat.
What's the use?
Oh, what's the use?

Birds flew out as I was split in half.
A mechanical, sacrificial calf they flew.
Oh, out they flew.

Steam engenius to see.
Steam engenius enough to answer anything you need.
And all that speed.

I held in my hands the beating heart of a robot.
He lost his car it was sitting there waiting out, in the parking lot out for you.
What a waste of time, what a waste of words, what a waste of strength.
Well I spoke in binary and you for volume and for dizzying length.

Both halves are the better half. Like a joke trying to make another joke laugh. Ha ha.

Stasis is what you brought, like a rickshaw getting pulled around by another rickshaw, rickshaw.

In the past talking present tense.
Gonna break it, gonna wreck it, gonna try to make it all make sense.

Stasis is what you got, like a rickshaw getting pulled around by another rickshaw.

Steam engenius ya see?
Steam engenius enough to bring my own damn doom.
What could I do?

I blame blame that blame had grew.
Well deep inside everybody knew it was them.
It's all on them.

Things rang of stories Greek.
I didn't want it! You gave me deity it was you.
Yeah, all for you.

I was born in a factory.
Far away from the milky teat.
What's the use?
Oh, what's the use?

I held in my hands the beating heart of a robot.
He'd lost his car, it was sitting there crying out, waiting in the parking lot just for you.

I was thought up by man to think better than them, then revered, admired, and then destroyed by them.

Ahh, even all that was my own damn plan.

Well, what a waste of time, what a waste of words, what a waste of strength.
Well I spoke in binary and you for volume and for dizzying length.

I held in my hands the beating heart of a robot.
He lost his car, it was sitting there crying out waiting for you in the parking lot going woo-hoo!

Stasis is what you got, like a rickshaw getting pulled around by another rickshaw.

Steam Engenius isn't a song that I connect with lyrically; it has me thinking about Marvin the paranoid android from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy more than anything else. What makes it worthy of a spot in my Top 20? It's the music and the way the lyrics are delivered. Isaac Brock is a raving madman at times during this song, but he also reigns it in and slows it down to good effect. The rhythm is irresistible and the dense sound is strangely addictive.


19. Head South - from This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About


A surf rock band from the land of plenty
Surf rock bands with no surf just pine trees

Struck by being ashamed of your old space, just wanting that mean heat
You bleached your hair and you pawned your skis
And then you sold out for the shade of the palm tree scene

And said, "Oh what a drag, oh what a backwards scheme
'Cuz here things go from grey to grey and back to grey again
And they get green and go to grey and back to grey again"

So he said,"Head South, head South, head South, head South
Head South, head South, head South, head South
Head South, head South, head South, head South
Head South, head South, head South, head South"

Struck by being ashamed of your old space, just wanting that mean heat
You bleached your hair and you pawned your skis
And then you sold out for the shape of the palm tree scene
Surrounded, cut off jeans and cut off jeans are what you mean

When you say, "Head South, head South, head South, head South
Head South, head South, head South, head South
Head South, head South, head South, head South"

If you're confused about this choice, it's what happens after the lyrics are over that makes this song fantastic. The first part of the song is good, but hardly something that warrants a Top 20 spot. The guitar in the last 90 seconds change everything. I can feel the energy of a young band just going for it, and that's infectious. I can't listen to it without playing every note in my head and smiling while I'm inwardly rocking out. This has to be some of the best raw guitar the band ever produced.


18. Broke - from Building Nothing Out of Something


Broke account so I broke a sweat
I've bought some things that I sort of regret about now
Broke your glasses, but it broke the ice
You said that I was an asshole and I paid the price

Broken hearts want broken necks
I've done some things that I want to forget but I can't
Broke my pace and ran out of time
Sometimes I'm so full of shit that it should be a crime

Broke a promise 'cause my car broke down
Such a classic excuse it should be bronze by now
Broke up, and I'm relieved somehow
It's the end of the discussions that just go round and round

And round, and round, and round, and round
And round, and round it shouldn't have been anyway
No way, no way, that's right, that's right
Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh, uh no
Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh, uh no
Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh, uh no
It was like everything was evidence of broken

You're living on fancy wine
You'll drink that turpentine
You're starting conversations
You don't even know the topic 

Building Nothing Out of Something contains a lot of good songs, but Broke is comfortably the best of them. The opening guitar is absolutely beautiful and the lyrics feel honest and real. The structure of the song is just about perfect with the volume and intensity building throughout. It's incredible that one band could craft songs using so many different styles, and end up pulling them all off so well.


17. Ocean Breathes Salty - from Good News for People Who Love Bad News


Your body may be gone, I'm gonna carry you in
In my head, in my heart, in my soul
And maybe we'll get lucky and we'll both live again
Well I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. Don't think so

Well that is that and this is this
You tell me what you want and I'll tell you what you get
You get away from me. You get away from me
Collected my belongings and I left the jail
Well thanks for the time, I needed to think a spell
I had to think awhile. I had to think awhile

The ocean breathes salty, won't you carry it in?
In your head, in your mouth, in your soul
And maybe we'll get lucky and we'll both grow old
Well I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I hope so

Well that is that and this is this
You tell me what you want and I'll tell you what you get
You get away from me. You get away from me
Collected my belongings and I left the jail
Well thanks for the time, I needed to think a spell
I had to think awhile. I had to think awhile

Well that is that and this is this
Will you tell me what you saw and I'll tell you what you missed
When the ocean met the sky
You missed when time and life shook hands and said goodbye
When the earth folded in on itself
And said "Good luck, for your sake I hope heaven and hell
Are really there, but I wouldn't hold my breath."
You wasted life, why wouldn't you waste death?
You wasted life, why wouldn't you waste death?

The ocean breathes salty, won't you carry it in?
In your head, in your mouth, in your soul
The more we move ahead the more we're stuck in rewind
Well I don't mind. I don't mind. How the hell could I mind?

Well that is that and this is this
You tell me what you want and I'll tell you what you get
You get away from me. You get away from me

Well that is that and this is this
Will you tell me what you saw and I'll tell you what you missed
When the ocean met the sky
You wasted life, why wouldn't you waste the afterlife?

The opening sentence brings up so many feelings about people I have lost, and thinking about who my friends have lost. The sense of optimism is quickly dashed by the likely reality about the presence of an afterlife, but I find that view refreshing. The guitars shimmer and soar for most of the song and I like Brock's vocal delivery. Sometimes, the best parts of a song are the placement of the silent parts. That's true here for the abrupt ending. Everything has been said and it simply ends.


16. Bury Me with It - from Good News for People Who Love Bad News


We were shootin' at a mound of dirt.
Well nothing was broken, nothing was hurt.
But I probably really should have been at work.
But if my freetime's gone, would you promise me this?

That you will please bury me with it?
Please bury me with it!

Well sure as planets come, I know that they end.
And if I'm here when that happens, will you promise me this my friend?

Please bury me with it!
I just don't need none of that Mad Max bullshit.

Well the suit got tight and it split at the seams.
But I kept it out of habit and I kept it really clean.
But if it's getting' faded, if it's runnin' outta thread,
Could you just do this for me my friend?

And please just please bury me with it?
Please bury me with it!

Well we moved to the left and moved to the right.
And sure as hell we stayed out almost every single night.
But if the party's over, if the fun has to end,
could you do this for me my friend?

Would you just please bury me with it?
Please bury me with it!

Good news for people who love bad news.
We've lost the plot and we just can't choose.
We are hummingbirds who are just not willing to move.
And there's good news for people who love bad news.
We are hummingbirds who've lost the plot and we will not move.
We have good news for anyone who loves bad news.

We were aiming for the moon. We were shooting at the stars.
But the kids were just shooting at the buses and the cars.
So don't drink the water, don't you breathe the air.
If it's gotten to that point then I have to declare:

That you please bury me with it!
Please bury me with it!

Well fads they come and fads they go.
And God I love that rock and roll!
Well the point was fast but it was too blunt to miss.
Life handed us a paycheck, we said, "We worked harder than this!"

Please bury me with it!
Please bury me with it!

We are hummingbirds who are just not going to move.
And there's good news for people who love bad news.
We are hummingbirds who've lost the plot and we well not move.
We have great news for anyone who loves bad news.

I have no problem with bands sounding like the Pixies if it's done this well. The music is great, but I have to mention the theme and some of the lyrics. I'm sure we can all identify with the idea of life not being worth living if you take away the things we care about the most. The Mad Max line is perfect, as is the paycheck line, but the hummingbird reference is the best lyric in the song. What an image. 

The next installment will showcase songs ranked 11-15 if I can figure out what order they should be in. I'll need a month off after I complete this project. 

Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 1
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 2
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 3
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 4
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 6   
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 7
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 8