Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Building nothing out of something - Songs 85 to 81


With 85 songs remaining, this task isn't getting any easier. There are 12 releases represented in the remaining tracks. I went through the list a couple of times and got together a shortlist of candidates for this round. After ranking those songs and playing them again in case I needed to tweak the order, I've decided on the songs for this installment.

85. Might (This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About)

I might
And you might
But neither of us do, though
And neither of us will
I broke every bone in my goddamn jaw
That's a lot, it's the last one I ever got

I might
And you might
But neither of us do, though
And neither of us will
Yesterday night I broke every bone in my jaw
Thought so hard, it's the last thing I ever thought

Songs don't have to last a long time in order to be effective. It is sometimes a good thing to break up an album by punctuating it with a shorter song. Might is about Brock breaking his jaw. That must be extremely annoying for a vocalist. At around 90 seconds, it's one of the shortest songs in the Modest Mouse catalogue. I think style and delivery are the most important aspects of music for me. I appreciate lyrics when they are written well, but the guitar, tempo, and vocal style are what really determine how much I like a song. This one is full of action.



84. Pups to Dust (Strangers to Ourselves)

Our hearts don't change from pups to dust
Couldn't see clearly, but I had a sense of what right and wrong was
Honest to God, I was honest as hell
I don't lie very often, but I lie very well

Give it away, take what you need
Love does not cost money, but it ain't free

We're learning slowly, equal parts of what you do, you don't
We don't remember
We don't remember just how we got here
Equal parts of what we do, we don't
We don't belong here, we were just born here

We remain the same (um, I'm not sure about that)
Or pretty much the same (now that's more like it)
From birth to grave, I couldn't see so clearly what I was or became
Oh I missed a spot (scrubba scrubba scrubba)
On my dirty thoughts
The way we feel about what we do is by who has watched us so

Aw how'd we get here, equal parts of what we do, we don't
We don't remember, we were just born here though
Oh what's the bother, equal parts of what you do, you don't
We don't remember, we were just born here
We don't belong here, we were just born here

I feel so anxious, mostly all of the time
Well if there's some point to this, then which one is mine?

We really don't belong here, we really ought to wander
We really don't belong here, we really ought to wander away

This song sounds incredibly slick and polished, even live. The lineup has expanded over the years and gives the band a lot of depth. The theme is our life and what we do during the course of it. I particularly like how the tempo increases near the end, just as time seems to move more quickly as you get older. The songs from Strangers to Ourselves are still new to me, even though I have listened dozens of times. They will probably climb any future list as I begin to associate people and memories with them.



83. Sunspots in the House of the Late Scapegoat (The Fruit That Ate Itself)

It was all the rotating eyes
It was all on the same postcard
It was all on the same damn shirt
Said to sleep in the same Sear's camp house
It was all in the great state parks
It was all on the same Greyhound
It was all so many miles
Beneath the dirty brown dirt
Twenty miles down the islands
The biggest mall on Earth
It was all in the same rest stop
It was all on the same damn shirt
It was all on the same Greyhound
Sunspots

In the house of the late scapegoat
Be aware the paint's still peeling
All muscle cars made of lead
I got myself a fine fine fine fine friend
It was all in the next grey ghost
It was all in the same damn place
The parts to pound attractive
Your feeling you owe on your size is bleeding
Sunspots

I like how the lyrics assault me with information, but what really makes this song is the second half. I'm not sure how to describe the music; it's just blatant Modest Mouse. It builds, soars, and engulfs me in swirling feedback like Cocteau Twins on speed. I wish it was a minute or two longer.



82. All Night Diner (Building Nothing Out of Something)

Yeah...
Yes...
Yes...

Have I told ya?
Have I told ya?
Have I told ya?
Have I told ya?
You could really get it on
You could really get it on

Have I told ya?
Have I told ya?
Have I told ya?
Have I told ya?
You could really get it on
You could really get it on

I was at an all night diner
The sign said "Triple X"
But they were talking about root beer
I'm just sitting down
Thinking about nothing
Looking at the thin air
Breathing up the oxygen

Have I told ya?
Have I told ya?
You could really get it on
You could really get it on

A guy comes up he's looking pretty 8-ball
Snaggletooth smile, sits down at my table
Puts his arm around me, starts to share his information

He said, he said, he said
He said, he said, he said
He said, he said, he said, he said
He said, he said, he said this is what he said

"I have sex, I'm always thinking about the pavement
So I can avoid premature ejaculation"
I got up, remembering to thank him
Better things to do so I'll start drinking now

Have I told ya?
Have I told ya?
Have I told ya?
Have I told ya?
You could really get it on
You could really get it on

Yeah

Have I told ya?
Have I told ya?
You could really get it on
You could really get it on

I'm in Tahoka, now I'm gonna hook up
With the parties, unfortunately we always
No one has any ideas, damn

Have I told ya?
Have I told ya?
Have I told ya?
Have I told ya?
You could really get it on
You could really get it on

Well, these lyrics really paint a picture. The delivery is almost hypnotic and I like the way everything flows. The image of the guy sharing his information makes me laugh. I bet we all have a few bizarre memories that compare with the guy in the diner. This song has grown on me a lot over the years. Repetition can be extremely effective. It almost sounds like something recorded in the 70s.



81. March Into the Sea (We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank)

If food needed pleasing, you'd suck all the seasoning off, suck it off
Well, treat me like disease like the rats and the fleas
Ah, ha, ha, ah, ha, ha
Bang your head like a gong 'cause it's filled with all wrong
Ah, ha, ha, klang, klang, klang

If you think you know enough to know you know we've had enough
And if you think you don't you probably will
Our tails wagged and then fell off
But we just turned back marched into the sea

Well, treat me like the sea oh, so salty and mean
Ah, ha, ha, oh, ha, ha
Well, treat me like disease like the rats and the fleas
Ah, ha, ha, ha

I'll be beating my heart's record for speeding
I'll be beating the record for hearts skipping in the dark
Our tails wagged and then fell off
But we just turned back marched into the sea
Well, we just turned around and marched into the sea

Take all that you need like my sign says for free till it's gone, till it's gone
Well, discard whom you please like the leaves off a tree
Ah, ha, ha, ah, ha, ha
Let's shake hands if you want but your both hands are gone
Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha

Treat me like the sea oh, so salty and mean
Ah, ha, ha
Oh, treat me like the sea oh, so salty and mean
Ah, ha, ha

Well, treat me like the disease like the rats and the fleas
Bang your head like a gong 'cause you call it all wrong
Move your tongue klang, klang
Klang, klang, klang, klang, klang, klang

Cut me down like a tree like the lumber or weeds
Drag me out of the sea and then teach me to breathe
Give me forced health till I wish death on myself
Give me forced health till I wish death on myself
Ah, ha, ha, ah, ha, ah, ha, ah, ha, ah, ha

Well, we all stumbled round
Tangled up in our cords
From our phones, VCR and our worldly woes
March on, march on, march on, march on
Well, march on

What a great way to begin an album, it's such a statement of intent. The vocals are urgent and quickly establish a mood. Brock's vocal style varies considerably, as does the band's musical style. This one is firmly in the rant category, and that style is responsible for a lot of my favorite songs.There's an almost carnival-like quality to this song, like so many of the tracks from Strangers to Ourselves.



The next installment will cover five more songs and I'll have it posted by the weekend.

Here's the ranking so far with links to previous installments:

100. Birds Vs Worms
99. Fire It Up
98. We've Got Everything
97. Dukes Up
96. Out of Gas
95. Strangers to Ourselves
94. Of Course We Know
93. Space Travel Is Boring
92. Styrofoam Boots/It's All Nice on Ice, Alright
91. Dance Hall
90. She Ionizes & Atomizes
89. Other People's Lives
88. Whenever You Breathe Out, I Breathe In (Positive Negative)
87. One Chance
86. Polar Opposites
85. Might
84. Pups to Dust
83. Sunspots in the House of the Late Scapegoat
82. All Night Diner
81. March Into the Sea

Building nothing out of something (overview)
Building nothing out of something - songs 85 to 81
Building nothing out of something - songs 80 to 76
Building nothing out of something - songs 75 to 71
Building nothing out of something - songs 70 to 66
Building nothing out of something - songs 65 to 61
Building nothing out of something - songs 60 to 56
Building nothing out of something - songs 55 to 51
Building nothing out of something - songs 50 to 46
Building nothing out of something - songs 45 to 41
Building nothing out of something - songs 40 to 36
Building nothing out of something - songs 35 to 31
Building nothing out of something - songs 30 to 26
Building nothing out of something - songs 25 to 21
Building nothing out of something - songs 20 to 16
Building nothing out of something - songs 15 to 11
Building nothing out of something - songs 10 to 6
Building nothing out of something - the Top 5

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Building nothing out of something - Songs 90 to 86


Many Modest Mouse songs take a few listens to fully appreciate. I think it's because of their complexity and multi-layered structure. The vast majority of bands use simple structures that make you feel like you know songs you are listening to for the first time. While predictable may lead to wider appeal and greater success, it doesn't necessarily mean great songs emerge from that formula. I don't mind making more of an effort up front if the ultimate payoff is more rewarding. I mention all this because I don't want you to write off this great music on just one listen. We live in a world that almost demands instant gratification, and it's hard to capture anyone's attention for long. Fans of Modest Mouse know the importance of this music and I am hoping more people can feel what I feel by reading this series of rankings and thoughts about the songs.

Let's get back to the countdown:

90. She Ionizes & Atomizes (This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About)

She ionizes and atomizes
Then turns to sunlight

He realizes and itemizes
Pulls harder than gravity

She ionizes and atomizes
Then turns to sunlight

Fluorescent light bulbs will,
Make an absence of dark,
But the light just ain't there still
And she said:

"I'm feeling empty
The real lights can make you heavy but
But never ever really empty
Fluorescent lights will always equal empty"

This song kicks off with some raw vocals and sounds a little disjointed at first. It's the effect that I was talking about in my opening paragraph. But if you listen a few times, something clicks, and everything falls into place. Then, of course, there's a great payoff. The last two minutes erupt and leave me wanting more of that full band sound. The contrast works well on its own and even better in the context of the whole album.



89. Other People's Lives (Building Nothing Out of Something)

Other people's lives seem more interesting
'cause they ain't mine
Other people's lives seem more interesting
'cause they ain't mine
Other people's lives seem more interesting
'cause they ain't mine
Other people's lives seem much more interesting

Well, I'm fed up and I need to go
Out of existence or just down the road forever
Well, later that night on the side of the road
I'm out of gas and I should have known better
Well, a guy shows up, he's 25 years old
Always thought this kid was such a mama's boy
He said, and that's what he said
He's been in the army and he did some speed
He went down to Thailand, and he did the deed
Oh yeah, he did it for the boys
A cop shows up, way damn late
I was excited, but usually I hate to see them

Other people's lives seem more interesting
'cause they ain't mine
Other people's lives seem more innocent
'cause they ain't mine
Other people's lives seem more interesting
'cause they ain't mine
Other people's lives seem more interesting
'cause they ain't mine

Later that night on the side of the road
I'm out of gas and I should have known better, yeah
I'm fed up and I need to go out of existence
Or just down the road forever, oh yeah
Well, a guy shows up, he's 25 years old
Always steals his kisses, such a mama's boy
He said, and that's what he said
Palm tree houses way down the lane
I was excited but usually I hate to see them, yeah

On the road
Out of road
Going out
Out of gas
Out of road
Out of car
Out of everything at last
Out, out, rent a car
Got yourself a crazy walk
Said a bowlegged
Or maybe you're just peglegged
Or something like that

Well, later at night on the side of the road
I'm out of gas and I should have known better, oh yeah
Cop showed up, way damn late
I was excited but usually I hate to see them, yeah

Big car, and I should've promised myself
I can not go when there's nothing better
And it's better all alone on the side of the road
I could've sworn she left when I was drunk
My god, now her face is gone
It goes on and on and on and on
Out of gas and nothing left
Got caught but I'm still on the gas
I said, I said, I said now I'm going to break my pace

Building Nothing Out of Something may be a compilation, but these are not weak songs by any means. At over seven minutes, Other People's Lives is one of the band's longer songs. I hear all kinds of craziness in there as I listen. The lyrics tell one story and the music transports me millions of years into the past. The image I get is of a huge dinosaur stomping through a forest and disturbing all manner of weird creatures. The spirals from guitar add to that atmospheric vibe. Another thing that grabs my attention is the lyrics. It's a simple theme, but think how true it is. We often wonder what it would be like to live in another country or if we lived the lifestyle of someone else, don't we? The mumbled section of lyrics echoes the thoughts of Out of Gas. The whole song is quite a journey, musically and lyrically.



88. Whenever You Breathe Out, I Breathe In (Positive Negative) (Building Nothing Out of Something) 

Hey, haven't seen you around in a while
Hey, haven't seen you around in a while
Hey, haven't seen you around in a while
Hey, haven't seen you around in a while

I didn't go to work for a month
I didn't leave my bed for eight days straight
I haven't hung out with anyone
Because if I did, I'd have nothing to say

I didn't feel angry or depressed
I didn't feel anything at all
I didn't want to go to bed
And I didn't want to stay up late

When you're living your life, well, that's the price you pay

Whenever I breathe out, you're breathing it in
Whenever I speak out, you're speaking it in
Whenever I breathe out, you're breathing it in
Whenever I speak out, you take it all in

I'm feeling this positive, negative, positive, negative
I'm feeling this positive, negative, positive, negative
I'm feeling this positive, negative, positive, negative

I didn't go to work for a month
I didn't leave my bed for eight days straight
I haven't hung out with anyone
Because if I did, I'd have nothing to say

Another song that builds slowly and quietly, before an outburst of emotion. When the band kicks in, the spiral guitar and that definitive drum sound unleashes so much energy. Then it's back to the quiet final verse. I often feel like people don't care what I think or say. There's probably only one person in my life that allows me to open up and express everything, and I realize more and more how valuable that is.



87. One Chance (Good News for People Who Love Bad News)

We have one chance
One chance to get everything right
We have one chance
One chance
And if we're lucky we might

My friends, my habits, my family
They mean so much to me
I just don't think that it's right
I've seen so many ships sail in
Just to head back out again and go off sinking

I'm just a box in a cage
I'm just a box in a cage
I'm just a box, just a box in a cage
I'm just a box, just a box in a cage
I'm just a box, just a box in a cage
I'm just a box in a cage

Didn't mean to laugh
Didn't know I had
Didn't know the better part of what you said
Because in your head you are not home
Didn't get the joke
Didn't mean to poke another
Just to save myself from some something
Something or another one
Well, walk home

I'm just a box in a cage
I'm just a box in a cage
I'm just a box, just a box in a cage
I'm just a box in a cage
I'm just a box, just a box in a cage
I'm just a box, just a box in a cage
I'm just a box in a cage

We have one chance
One chance to get everything right
My friends, my habits, my family
They mean so much to me
I just don't think that it's right
I've seen so many ships sail in
Just to head back out again and go off sinking

The structure of this song is simple and accessible, and it would fit well on the latest album. But it's from more than a decade ago. Notice how the lyrics assault you with so much information. So while the musical structure is simple, the lyrics make me think. I wall myself off to a large extent, focusing on hobbies instead of looking for new people in my life. This entire series backs that up, but I care about writing it. I rarely devote much time to any one thing, but when I do it can approach obsession. So what is the title referring to? One life, and one chance to get it right? One chance to impress a potential romantic partner? Are the ships referring to people, or any opportunity to experience something new? It's a great song, whatever the meaning. Maybe this is a good song to play someone totally new to the band?



86. Polar Opposites (The Lonesome Crowded West)

Polar opposites don't push away
It's the same on the weekends as the rest of the days
And I know I should go but I will probably stay
And that's all you can do about some things

I'm trying, I'm trying to drink away the part of the day
That I cannot sleep away
I'm trying, I'm trying to drink away the part of the day
That I cannot sleep away

Two one-eyed dogs, they're looking at stereos
Hi-fi gods try so hard to make their cars low to the ground

These vibrations oil its teeth
Primer gray is the color when you're done dying

I'm trying, I'm trying to drink away the part of the day
That I cannot sleep away
I'm trying, I'm trying to drink away the part of the day
That I cannot sleep away

Uh-oh, there goes another song from my favorite album of all time. How can I be so disloyal? It is so difficult to rank songs when you love virtually everything the band has ever released (and a lot of things they haven't released). I guess it's like choosing between your children, or pizza over Indian food? Do you ever feel like you are wasting your life? I know that I do. Although I don't drink away the parts of the day that I cannot sleep away, I completely understand that sentiment. The next time I visit the hi-fi gods will be when all of the Modest Mouse back catalogue is available in high definition.



That concludes this segment. The next part will cover songs 85 to 81. As always, here's how the ranking is shaping up thus far, along with links to the other parts in this series. Thanks for reading.

100. Birds Vs Worms
99. Fire It Up
98. We've Got Everything
97. Dukes Up
96. Out of Gas
95. Strangers to Ourselves
94. Of Course We Know
93. Space Travel Is Boring
92. Styrofoam Boots/It's All Nice on Ice, Alright
91. Dance Hall
90. She Ionizes & Atomizes
89. Other People's Lives
88. Whenever You Breathe Out, I Breathe In (Positive Negative)
87. One Chance
86. Polar Opposites

Building nothing out of something (overview)
Building nothing out of something - songs 85 to 81
Building nothing out of something - songs 80 to 76
Building nothing out of something - songs 75 to 71
Building nothing out of something - songs 70 to 66
Building nothing out of something - songs 65 to 61
Building nothing out of something - songs 60 to 56
Building nothing out of something - songs 55 to 51
Building nothing out of something - songs 50 to 46
Building nothing out of something - songs 45 to 41
Building nothing out of something - songs 40 to 36
Building nothing out of something - songs 35 to 31
Building nothing out of something - songs 30 to 26
Building nothing out of something - songs 25 to 21
Building nothing out of something - songs 20 to 16
Building nothing out of something - songs 15 to 11
Building nothing out of something - songs 10 to 6
Building nothing out of something - the Top 5

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Building nothing out of something - Songs 95 to 91


I was driving home yesterday listening to Dirty Fingernails, and it was so good that I had to play it twice. There's something so sinister about that sound. I mention it because it was the last song cut before I decided on the final 100. That's how good this music is. Even songs that didn't make this list would blow most other bands out of the water.

Let's get back to the Top 100:

95. Strangers to Ourselves (Strangers to Ourselves)

We're lucky that
We're lucky that we slept
Didn't seem like we realized we'd be stuck in traffic
We're lucky that we slept
Not to be confused the points from the purpose
We're lucky that we're so capable to forget
How lucky we are, that we are, so easy to forget
How often we become susceptible to regret
I do regret

How often we are confused
How honestly we have tried
But we'll forget
We have designed more unusual things as yet
How often we are confused
How honestly we have tried
But will forget
We'll forget

The opening song from the long awaited latest album does a great job of setting a mood. It was the perfect choice to open the album. Brock's vocals are subdued and calm, and it feels like the beginning of a journey. It was the last song played in London two weeks ago, ending a wonderful show. The violin creates a mood totally different from the usual guitar. I've noticed that a lot of Brock's lyrics are introspective and often insightful. Add this song to that list.



94. Of Course We Know (Strangers to Ourselves)

The streets are just blankets and we sleep on their silky corpse
Covered up by them, why would we ever want to wake up?
Oh, no

Well, of course, of course, of course, of course
Of course we just do not know

What in hell are we here for?
We just do not know

Lord lay down, Lord lay down, Lord lay down your own damn soul
Lord lay down, Lord lay down, Lord lay down your own damn soul
Lord lay down, Lord lay down, Lord lay down your own damn soul

The end is like cotton that we wear wherever we go
Covered up by this, why would we ever want to try on your clothes?

Well of course, of course, of course, of course
Of course we just do not know

Well, Lord lay down, Lord lay down, Lord lay down
(Let down your guard)
Lord lay down, Lord lay down, Lord lay down your own damn soul
Lord lay down, Lord lay down, Lord lay down your only son

Of course we know

Strangers to Ourselves shows a different side of Modest Mouse. One of my friends thinks it's easily the best album the band has ever done. I obviously think it's fantastic, but my absolute favorites tend to be raw and filled with squealing guitars. Of Course We Know is the perfect bookend to the opening track, and continues that mood. It feels somewhat epic and suggests that it is searching for something just out of reach. It always leaves me wanting more. Luckily, there is more than 10 hours of music across the band's discography, so always plenty of choice.



93. Space Travel Is Boring (This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About)

Won herself a pass to some far off moon
It was second class but what's to lose?
And looking out her window she could more than assume
That you can't see air or time

She's the only rocketeer in the whole damn place
They gave her a mirror so she could talk to a face
She still got plenty lonely but that's just the case
With time, time, time

Started hearing voices sometime in June
She knew she could go crazy but didn't think that soon
Now she doesn't feel lonely but she'd just as soon
Try, try, try, try

Man shot to the moon
I read a paperback and want to go real soon
I'm shot to the moon
Been there a half an hour, I want to come home soon

Talking of raw, welcome to the final track from the first album (on the CD version at least). I like the contrast in tempo between the first two verses and the remainder of the song. I love Brock's vocals on this. It's strange to use a short song that begins so urgently as the closing track on an album, but the slower second half of the song makes it work.



92. Styrofoam Boots/It's All Nice on Ice, Alright (The Lonesome Crowded West)

Well, all's not well
But I'm told that it'll all be quite nice
You'll be drowned in boots like Mafia
But your feet will still float like Christ's
Well I'll be damned
They were right

I'm drowning upside down
My feet afloat like Christ's

I'm in heaven
Trying to figure out which stack
They're going to stuff us atheists into
When Peter and his monkey laugh
And I laugh with them
I'm not sure what at

They point and say
"We'll keep you in the back
Polishing halos, baking manna and gas"

Well, some guy comes in looking a bit
Like everyone I ever seen
He moves just like Crisco disco
Breath 100% Listerine
He says looking at something else
But directing everything to me
"Every time anyone gets on their knees to pray
Well, it makes my telephone ring
And I'll be damned"

He said, "You were right
No one's running this whole thing"

He had a theory, too
He said that God takes care of himself,
God takes care of himself
And you of you

He said that God takes care of himself
God takes care of himself,
And you of you

He said that God takes care of himself
God takes care of himself,
And you of you

It's all nice on ice, all right!
And it's not day!
And it's not night!
But it's all nice on ice, all right!

Another closing song from an album. That seems to be happening a lot today. The contrast between the first and second part of the song is significant. I could easily imagine the first half being performed solo. The lyrics make me think, and that's always welcome. If a supreme being exists, I doubt very much it would watch our every step. If you continue this journey with me to the end, you'll realize that God is mentioned often. This song was played live at the last concert I attended two weeks ago, and it's become something more because of that. The frenzied drumming at the end works brilliantly live. I didn't want it to end.



91. Dance Hall (Good News for People Who Love Bad News)

I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday
I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday
I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday

Well, I'm giving myself another one
I have too much to say

Dance all Dance Hall everyday
I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday
I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday

I'm going to angle or telepathy
Because I don't have the words to say
Well, I'm going to act up, but not in your fucking play
I'll let you win the argument if things still go my way
I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday

I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday
I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday
I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday

I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday
I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday
I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday
I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday

Well, I haven't had enough and I said I had my fill
The past does not exist and I'm told it never will
I guess that I'm stuck here like a plant on a windowsill

I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday
I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday
I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday
I'm going to tell you what you want to hear anyways

I could give myself a shot
I could give myself a pill
I'm going to go and try to buy a little more time to kill
I need a can opener cause I got some beans to spill

I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday
I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday
I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday
I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday

Well somehow or another I fell for every scam
But I was dancing on the tin roof, cat be damned
Committing crimes, running down the alley
I am the captain and you are in the galley!

I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday
I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday
I'm going to dance all Dance Hall everyday
I'm going to Dance Hall dance all night long right now!

Ah, I like hearing Brock's vocals when he's flirting with chaos. The delivery is manic and full of emotion. As Jonathan Richman once sang, "if the music's gonna move me, it's gotta be action packed." Dance Hall is a rant, but there's so much going on in this song. Are there really 90 better songs than this? Apparently.



Well, that's all for this installment. I hope that Modest Mouse fans will find this interesting and that people new to the band will somehow get into the music because of this massive series. If I seem to be keeping my comments short, you can be sure that the posts will get longer as we move up the list. This is a labor of love and I hope that my passion for this incredible music is reflected in my commentary.

The next installment will cover songs 90 to 86.

Here's the story so far:

100. Birds Vs Worms
99. Fire It Up
98. We've Got Everything
97. Dukes Up
96. Out of Gas
95. Strangers to Ourselves
94. Of Course We Know
93. Space Travel Is Boring
92. Styrofoam Boots/It's All Nice on Ice, Alright
91. Dance Hall

Building nothing out of something (overview)
Building nothing out of something - songs 85 to 81
Building nothing out of something - songs 80 to 76
Building nothing out of something - songs 75 to 71
Building nothing out of something - songs 70 to 66
Building nothing out of something - songs 65 to 61
Building nothing out of something - songs 60 to 56
Building nothing out of something - songs 55 to 51
Building nothing out of something - songs 50 to 46
Building nothing out of something - songs 45 to 41
Building nothing out of something - songs 40 to 36
Building nothing out of something - songs 35 to 31
Building nothing out of something - songs 30 to 26
Building nothing out of something - songs 25 to 21
Building nothing out of something - songs 20 to 16
Building nothing out of something - songs 15 to 11
Building nothing out of something - songs 10 to 6
Building nothing out of something - the Top 5

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Building nothing out of something - Songs 100 to 96


Let's get this started by eliminating songs 96 to 100. Before I offer my comments and critique the songs, I want to make it clear that I love every song on the list. In fact, I had a particularly hard time cutting the last 23 songs just to get to 100 remaining.


100. Birds Vs Worms (Sad Sappy Sucker)

Self pity, me so pitiful,
You can see that birds and worms don't get along.

Self righteous, me so wrong
You can see that we don't have to get along.

Self pity, me so pitiful
You can see that birds and worms do not agree.

And we will crawl.

The opener from Sad Sappy Sucker is a simple song, but it shows how the band's sound was beginning to evolve. It would have been their debut album, but it was shelved until 2001. The song was actually recorded in 1994. I like the quiet guitar and Isaac Brock's laid back vocals. He sings the lyrics as though they are indisputable facts.



99. Fire It Up (We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank)

Etceteranough
Etceteranough
Etceteranough
Etceteranough
Etceteranough
Etceteranough
Etceteranough

Fire it up
Fire it up

When we finally turn it over
Make a beeline towards the border
Have a drink
You've had enough

Fire it up
Fire it up

If you need some conversation
Bring a magazine to read around
Our broke-down transportation

Fire it up

Etceteranough
Etceteranough
Etceteranough

Fire it up
Fire it up

When we find the perfect water
We'll hang out on the shore
Just long enough to leave our clothes there

Fine enough
Fine enough

Oh we ate all of the oranges
Off the navels of our lovers
Grabbed a book and read the cover

It honestly was beautifully done
We'd tried to hide the daylight from the sun
Even if we had been sure enough
It's true we really didn't know
Even if we knew which way to head
But still we probably wouldn't go

Fire it up
Fire it up

We push off we are rolling borders
Crashing down the mirrored stairways
Two of life's best mine canaries

Fire it up
Fire it up

When we fix the carburetor
Then we'll push off once again
In an hour or so later

It honestly was beautifully bold
Like trying to save an ice cube from the cold
Even if we had been sure enough
It's true we really didn't know
Even if we knew which way to head
But still we probably wouldn't go

Well we always
Well we always
Had it all
Had it all

Well we always
Well we always
Had it all
Had it all

Well we always
Well we always
Had it all

Fire It Up is such a polished song. It's easy to see the huge difference in the band's sound 13 years after Birds Vs Worms. Some of the sequences in this song flow wonderfully, while others stutter a little. I might choose this type of sound for someone exploring alternative rock for the first time, but I obviously have 98 songs ranked higher. It works especially well live and I highly recommend seeing Modest Mouse in concert any chance you get.



98. We've Got Everything (We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank)

We've got everything
We've got everything
We've got everything down to a science
So I guess we know everything
We know everything (We know, we know)
We know everything (We know)
We know everything was built to expire
So I guess we've done everything

If we carried it out to sea
Pushed it over the edge
We'd of all been through

Well first off Garry got drunk
Fell asleep in his car till about noon
Flattop Tony got all messed up
Split his lip chasing cheap perfume
Well look at our boat in the bay
It looks like some sad ass little canoe

We've done everything (We've done, we've done, we've done)
We've done everything
We've done everything like trial by fire
So I guess we've stopped trying now

We've tried everything
We've tried everything (We've tried)
We've tried everything half assed and as liars
And that's how we got everything

If we carried it out to sea
Pushed it over the edge
We could of all been through

Well no one even bothered showing up
But we still did what
We should have thought through

We crashed in like waves up to the store
Didn't want it, didn't need it
But we knew that we could see it
So we opened up the door

We receded like waves out of the store
Didn't want it, didn't need
But we knew we that we could steal
Left it dying on the floor

We were there...

We've got, we've got, we've got, we've got, we've got
We've got, we've got, we've got, we've got, we've got

We've got

We've got everything (We've got, we've got, we've got)
We've got everything (We've got)
We've got everything down to a science
So I guess we know everything

We've got everything (We've got everything)
We've done everything (We've done everything)
We've tried everything (We've done everything
We've got everything (We've got everything)
We've got everything

Here's a song that I think would be better without the backing vocals. The chorus doesn't match the quality of the verses. I still like Brock's vocals, and it loses nothing when he rants. If I had any criticism of We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, it's that the production is a little too slick.



97. Dukes Up (Sad Sappy Sucker)

So you wonder how
Get them up, put them up
Get your dukes up now!

Got no time, no money, that's why
Get them up, put em up
Get your dukes up now!

Soda fountain crowd
Button up, shut em up
Getting fed up now!

Got no time, no money, goddamn
Get them up, put them up
Get your dukes up now!

So you wonder how
Get them up, put them up
Get your dukes up now!

Got no time, no money, that's why
Get them up, put em up
Get your dukes up now!

Soda fountain crowd
Button up, shut em up
Getting fed up now!

Got no time, no money, goddamn
Get them up, put them up
Get your dukes up now!

The intricate guitar provides the structure for another song from 1994. One thing that I notice on this track is Jeremiah Green's drumming. On a lot of the early releases, the drums are very prominent in the mix. It's almost as if the microphone is inside the drum at times. I'm not sure that I have ever appreciated another drummer more than Green.



96. Out of Gas (The Lonesome Crowded West)

Out of gas
Out of road
Out of car
I don't know how I'm going to go and
I had a drink the other day
Opinions were like kittens
I was giving them away
I had a drink the other day
I had a lot to say
And I said:

You will come down soon, too
You will come down too soon
You will come down soon, too
You will come down
You'll come down, come down
You will come down soon, too
You will come down too soon
You will come down soon, too
Soon enough you will come down, come down

Out of gas
Out of road
Out of car
I don't know how I'm going to go and
I had a drink the other day
Opinions were like kittens
I was giving them away
I had a drink the other day
I had a lot to say
And I said:

You will come down soon, too
You will come down too soon
You will come down soon, too
Soon enough you will come down, come down
You will come down soon, too
You will come down too soon
You'll come down, come down
You'll come down, come down

It irks me to put a song from my favorite album this low on the list. In fairness, it works a lot better in the context of the album. The lyrics fit the meandering mood of the song. It's on my list of favorite driving songs. It's hypnotic and strangely compelling.



Thanks for reading. The next installment includes songs ranked 91 to 95.

Here are the other parts of this series:

Building nothing out of something (overview)
Building nothing out of something - songs 85 to 81
Building nothing out of something - songs 80 to 76
Building nothing out of something - songs 75 to 71
Building nothing out of something - songs 70 to 66
Building nothing out of something - songs 65 to 61
Building nothing out of something - songs 60 to 56
Building nothing out of something - songs 55 to 51
Building nothing out of something - songs 50 to 46
Building nothing out of something - songs 45 to 41
Building nothing out of something - songs 40 to 36
Building nothing out of something - songs 35 to 31
Building nothing out of something - songs 30 to 26
Building nothing out of something - songs 25 to 21
Building nothing out of something - songs 20 to 16
Building nothing out of something - songs 15 to 11
Building nothing out of something - songs 10 to 6
Building nothing out of something - the Top 5

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Building nothing out of something - a Modest Mouse Top 100


If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may remember that I attempted to rank the songs of Modest Mouse in August 2014. It turned out to be a sprawling 8-part series. Well, now that I am familiar with Strangers to Ourselves, I thought it was time to compile a new ranking.

Here's my original attempt if you are curious.

I would love to automatically know my rankings for music and movies, but doing it the hard way is a great opportunity to dig deeper into the things that I love. I've bought my first vinyl 45 around 43 years ago. Although my tastes have evolved and my enthusiasm for music deepened after attending approximately 500 live shows, music was important to me as a child.

Over the course of my life, my favorites have changed from glam, to David Bowie, Pink Floyd, The Fall, Pixies, Throwing Muses and Sonic Youth. I discovered Modest Mouse later than most, first paying close attention about 10 years ago. For the last 15 months, it's hard for me to listen to anything else.

There are so many things to love about Modest Mouse. The music itself ranges from driving alternative rock, to funk, ballads, dance, and even rap. Isaac Brock's vocals can be delicate and heartfelt, or outright screaming rants. The sheer variety of styles and songs is incredible. Most bands tend to find a sound they like and stick to it, but you never know what to expect from Modest Mouse. The latest tour has seen the band play 69 different songs. Most bands hardly ever vary from their core setlists, maybe playing two or three different songs each show. Many of the lyrics are clever and insightful.

One of things I am curious to discover as I work my way through this ranking, is how it has changed from last August. Strangers to Ourselves gives me 15 new songs to discover, but I will do this exercise without referring to my previous rankings. I want to find out how my appreciation for the songs has evolved.

I'm sure that many of you are wondering how to tackle such a daunting task. My method is to list every song, cut the list down to 100, then rank each album or EP individually. Then I'll compare the weakest remaining song on each release to determine its ranking. I can't think of a more accurate way, although I am aware of the sheer futility of such an exercise.

The list will be updated as time allows, and I will comment on each song, provide the lyrics, along with a video if one is available.

This initial post is just about done. Here's my alphabetical list of the songs that made the Top 100. The next installment will begin to rank them, in reverse order. I hope that you will follow along and perhaps discover a song you may have overlooked or even never heard.

Thanks for reading so far.


Alphabetical Top 100


3rd Planet
A Different City
A Life of Arctic Sounds
A Manic Depressive Named Laughing Boy
All Night Diner
Alone Down There
Ansel
Bankrupt on Selling
Be Brave
Beach Side Property
Birds Vs Worms
Black Cadillacs
Blame It on the Tetons
Breakthrough
Broke
Bukowski
Bury Me with It
Convenient Parking
Cowboy Dan
Coyotes
Custom Concern
Dance Hall
Dark Center of the Universe
Dashboard
Doin' the Cockroach
Dramamine
Dukes Up
Edit the Sad Parts
Education
Exit Does Not Exist
Fire It Up
Float On
Florida
Fly Trapped in a Jar
Gravity Rides Everything
Grey Ice Water
Guilty Cocker Spaniels
Head South
Heart Cooks Brain
I Came as a Rat
Interstate 8
Invisible
King Rat
Lampshades On Fire
Life Like Weeds
Little Motel
Lives
Lounge (Closing Time)
March into the Sea
Might
Missed the Boat
Never Ending Math Equation
Night on the Sun
Novacain Stain
Ocean Breathes Salty
Of Course We Know
Ohio
One Chance
Other People's Lives
Out of Gas
Paper Thin Walls
Parting of the Sensory
People as Places as People
Perfect Disguise
Polar Opposites
Pups To Dust
Satellite Skin
Satin in a Coffin
She Ionizes & Atomizes
Shit In Your Cut
Shit Luck
Space Travel Is Boring
Spitting Venom
Steam Engenius
Strangers to Ourselves
Styrofoam Boots/It's All Nice on Ice Alright
Sugar Boats
Sunspots in the House of the Late Scapegoat
Talking Shit About a Pretty Sunset
Teeth Like God's Shoeshine
The Best Room
The Cold Part
The Good Times Are Killing Me
The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box
The Stars Are Projectors
The Tortoise and the Tourist
The View
The Waydown
The Whale Song
The World at Large
Tiny Cities Made of Ashes
Trailer Trash
Truckers Atlas
Tundra/Desert
We've Got Everything
What People Are Made Of
Whenever You Breathe Out, I Breathe in (Positive Negative)
Whenever You See Fit
White Lies, Yellow Teeth
Wicked Campaign

Building nothing out of something (overview)
Building nothing out of something - songs 85 to 81
Building nothing out of something - songs 80 to 76
Building nothing out of something - songs 75 to 71
Building nothing out of something - songs 70 to 66
Building nothing out of something - songs 65 to 61
Building nothing out of something - songs 60 to 56
Building nothing out of something - songs 55 to 51
Building nothing out of something - songs 50 to 46
Building nothing out of something - songs 45 to 41
Building nothing out of something - songs 40 to 36
Building nothing out of something - songs 35 to 31
Building nothing out of something - songs 30 to 26
Building nothing out of something - songs 25 to 21
Building nothing out of something - songs 20 to 16
Building nothing out of something - songs 15 to 11
Building nothing out of something - songs 10 to 6
Building nothing out of something - the Top 5