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The Moon & Antarctica

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Album Review

Modest Mouse's Epic debut, The Moon & Antarctica, finds them strangely subdued, focusing on mortality as well as the moody, acoustic side of their music and downplaying the edgy, spastic rock that helped make them indie stars. Not that their first major-label release sounds like a sellout — actually, the slight sheen of Brian Deck's production enhances the album's introspective tone — but occasionally The Moon & Antarctica's melancholy becomes ponderous. Unfortunately, the album's middle stretch contains three such songs, "The Cold Part," "Alone Down There," and "The Stars Are Projectors," which tend to blur together into one 17-minute-long piece that bogs down the album's momentum. Individually, each of these songs is sweeping and haunting in its own right, but grouping them together blunts their impact. However, this trilogy does provide a sharp contrast to, as well as a bridge across, The Moon & Antarctica's more vibrant beginning and end. Though it explores death and the afterlife, The Moon & Antarctica's liveliest moments are its most effective. "3rd Planet"'s simple, ramshackle melody and strange, moving lyrics ("Your heart felt good"), the elastic guitars on "Gravity Rides Everything," and the angular, jumpy "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes" and "A Different City" get the album off to a strong start, while the fresh, unaffected "Wild Packs of Family Dogs," "Paper Thin Walls," and "Lives" bring it to an atmospheric, affecting peak before "What People Are Made Of" closes the album with a climactic burst of noise. Their most cohesive collection of songs to date, The Moon & Antarctica is an impressive, if flawed, map of Modest Mouse's ambitions and fears. [The 2004 reissue has been remastered and features BBC performances of "3rd Planet," "Perfect Disguise," and "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes," as well as an instrumental version of "Custom Concern" from This Is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About.]

Biography

Formed: 1993 in Issaquah, WA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Modest Mouse were one of the most surprising commercial success stories of the new millennium -- while their music was by turns taut and elliptical, and the lyrics sometimes cryptic and introspective, the band broke through to the mainstream audience with the platinum-selling Good News for People Who Love Bad News, and they became genuine rock stars at a time when their musical peers remained cult figures. Modest Mouse were founded in 1993 by guitarist and vocalist Isaac Brock, bassist Eric Judy,...
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The Moon & Antarctica, Modest Mouse
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