Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Best of the 2000s: Modest Mouse: The Moon and Antarctica

One of the concerns I have about doing this retrospective is that it will reveal me as what I am. Old. I am painfully aware that the selections I've made so far have all been from the first half of the decade, and I don't see that this is going to change a huge amount with subsequent additions.

A less old person might have chosen one of the more recent Modest Mouse records, Good News for People Who Love Bad News (excellent), or We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (less so). The reality is, though, that my selection marks me as old in two ways:

1) I am old because I remember the first years of this decade. They are, in fact, my formative years. I was 19 when this record came out in the year 2000. 2000 still sounds like the future to me.

2) I am old because I still listen to some pieces of music as solid albums.

The Moon and Antarctica is much easier to type than Modest Mouse's other albums, but it also possesses other virtues. The key to my enjoyment of it is that it asks, no demands, to be played and enjoyed as an extended, cohesive whole, with all the thematic and musical coherence that that implies. Although it swerves drunkenly across genres from track to track, from spacey dream-rock to acoustic prettiness and back via some bass-led almost dance, it never feels like anything but a whole object. That makes it really difficult to select a representative track to post below, but it also makes it a wonderful example of a form which is gradually being lost in the wake of changes in the way music is being consumed. If I come across any of the individual tracks when I am randomly wandering through my music, it seems like a lost orphan, and I have to reunite it with its kin by playing the whole album. This is why I am happy to risk seeming old by recommending it; it is, I think, a rare enough thing to praise.


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