Modest Mouse’s newest album, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, is one of those albums that inspires love and hatred at the same time. Modest Mouse has on occasion used album titles that are confusing at first glance, and We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank continues this tradition. While the album does possess some good songs, it is not the band’s best output by far.
Modest Mouse’s greatest album is arguably The Moon & Antarctica, which is unarguably amazing. Good News for People that Love Bad News gave a different sound that was without a doubt written for the radio, although it does stay true to some of the basic elements of the band’s sound that were established on The Moon & Antarctica. We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank moves further away from The Moon & Antarctica, and closer to the poppy aesthetic of Good News for People that Love Bad News.
The album can be compared to the ABC network’s television show “Lost,” a television show that is extremely addictive and, at the same time, extremely mind-numbing – introducing ridiculous plot twists and stories that seem to magically converge as they all coincidentally come together on one island. Similarly, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank pulls the listener in with its catchy pop songs, but upon closer examination, it appears that all that addictive aesthetic is just a clever cover for the fact that lead singer Isaac Brock is making little to no sense whatsoever in many of his songs.
One of these songs is “Fire It Up,” which begins with a word that does not exist in the English dictionary, “Etceteranough / Fire it up / Fire it up.” It seems that Brock is attempting to create words and call them his own. It’s not just a nonsensical lyric, it is a downright awkward one. The same absurd pattern of language choice continues throughout the album.
Despite the album’s lyrical confusion, the musical stylings are worth embellishing on in a far more positive manner. “Dashboard,” the single that was heard on the radio prior to the release of the album, is one of those songs that makes the public aware of why Modest Mouse is worth listening to. The song features an amazing guitar melody and riffs intermingled with the more logical lyrics that Brock is known for – all combined with the ability to break proper syntax in an understandable way with lyrics such as “Well it would’ve been, could’ve been worse than you would ever know / Oh the dashboard melted but we still had the radio.” “Dashboard” also has a very pleasant inclusion of a synthesizer that harmonizes with the melody, giving a very unstable sound that works well for the song.
Overall, the album is worth getting, but do not expect anything mind-blowing from it. We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank falls short of the aforementioned mind-blowing expectations the band has come to incur, but it is a nice rendezvous into the catchier side of Brock’s mind – awkwardness, senselessness and all.