Monday, August 4, 2014

The lonesome crowded quest part 2 - down to 39 songs

In part 1 of this quest, I identified the 59 Modest Mouse songs that stand out above the others in my mind. After further consideration, I have whittled that list down to 39. It wasn't an easy task, and I'm sure it will only get harder as I continue to work my way through this project. The 20 I cut this round would make an incredible album in their own right, so don't despair if some of your favorites were included. I love every one of the 59 songs, and almost every song Modest Mouse has produced over the last 20 years or so.

So, to work. Which songs have been cut, and why have I cut them? I'll group these by album or EP:

Good News for People Who Love Bad News loses three songs this round. Bukowski is the first casualty. The opening reminds me of the kind of music that might be used in a Pink Panther movie. It stutters along in fits and starts, but ultimately everything comes together. The lack of overall flow is what ruled it out. The View does have that flow, but lacks the depth of the songs that made it through to the next round. The incredible rhythm section channels Talking Heads. The polished quality of this song is reminiscent of the feel permeating We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. I loved hearing Satin in a Coffin at the recent Echo Beach concert, but that doesn't save it from elimination. The banjo works well, and I like the venom in the vocals. I told you this wouldn't be easy.

The Lonesome Crowded West loses two more. Shit Luck is an upbeat rant that always makes me grin like an idiot. However, I can't justify letting it advance to the next round. There's just not enough to it. Polar Opposites works so well in the context of the album. I love the structure, and the lyrics, but the 39 surviving tracks are all better.

No One's First and You're Next loses Satellite Skin. The chunky intro is pleasing to the ear, and the first verse works perfectly. However, the pattern is repeated a little too often and that lack of variation eliminates it from further consideration.

The Moon & Antarctica wouldn't be too out of place if it had been released as a seventies concept album. It has the best overall flow of any Modest Mouse album, and it seems wrong to play some of the songs without the others. As a result, I've cut five brilliant songs this round. The dreamy intro to Perfect Disguise works wonderfully, and Brock's vocals fit the mood. It just loses something when played on its own. Admit it, you're waiting for that bass to kick in at the end of the song, signifying the start of Tiny Cities. The Cold Part is also gone and it pains me to lose it. What an incredibly atmospheric song. Try it when you're driving along on your own in the dark. It's a song that searches for something just out of reach, and, unfortunately, the next round is out of reach for this one. Alone Down There feels too closely linked to the two songs bracketing it on the album. While I love it, I feel justified in cutting it this round. Lives is the fourth casualty, although it contains some great changes in tempo and excellent lyrics. I love the different moods and the line about the dull sound of sharp math. Like Shit Luck, What People Are Made Of is a rant that always makes me smile. The wall of sound and the urgency in the lyrics make it difficult to cut, but it's gone.

This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About has grown on me so much lately, revealing itself as one of the most promising debut albums ever made. That said, I'm hacking away four gems this round. Breakthrough is raw and exciting, with Brock sounding like Black Francis. The guitar in the second half of the song makes this a particularly difficult one to cut, but it's done. Might has a great structure, but it's not really about anything and is a little too short. I love Lounge, so why am I cutting it? The vocal style is a highlight, and the transition into the quieter second half is masterful. Ultimately, I prefer the action and urgency of the surviving songs. Space Travel is Boring demonstrates that raw quality mentioned in Breakthrough. This is another song with definite phases. It works well, but the second half doesn't match the first.

The final cuts for this round all come from We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. While I can handle disjointed songs, March Into the Sea is just a little too choppy (no pun intended), and I don't like the ah ha ha lines. In contrast, Dashboard is too polished for me to absolutely love it, and I could do without the backing vocals. I wouldn't want to skip any track on the album, but there are few that I would consider for the final Top 10. Florida bursts into action with the kind of vocals I like the most, but the backing vocals are too poppy for my liking. This song could be incredible instead of very good. I love the lyrics too: "It took so much effort not to make an effort, oh what a flawless design." Missed the Boat is another song that would have sounded better without the polished production. The chorus is too much of an anthem, but there's still a lot to like about the song. Education is the hardest one to lose. The lyrics are superb. The stubborn beauty ending is a slight letdown after everything that leads up to it.

With the loss of those 20 songs, I'm left sifting through 39. I think it makes sense to lose 14 in the next round so that I can go into more detail for the Top 25. I'll also start linking videos at that point. I've probably outraged a few more Modest Mouse fans with this installment, but it's inevitable with the quality of their overall output.

Here are the 39 songs advancing to the next round (in alphabetical order):

3rd Planet
A Different City
Black Cadillacs
Bury Me with It
Convenient Parking
Cowboy Dan
Custom Concern
Dark Center of the Universe
Doin' the Cockroach
Edit the Sad Parts
Exit Does Not Exist
Float On
Fly Trapped in a Jar
Gravity Rides Everything
Head South
Heart Cooks Brain
I Came as a Rat
Interstate 8
Life Like Weeds
Lounge (Closing Time)
Never Ending Math Equation
Novocain Stain
Ocean Breathes Salty
Paper Thin Walls
Parting of the Sensory
Spitting Venom
Steam Engenius
Talking Shit About a Pretty Sunset
Teeth Like God's Shoeshine
The Stars are Projectors
The Whale Song
The World at Large
Tiny Cities Made of Ashes
Trailer Trash
Truckers Atlas

Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 1
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 7  
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded Quest - Ranking the Songs Part 8 

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