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Modest Mouse - No One's First and You're Next

Modest Mouse

No One’s First and You’re Next


No One’s First and You’re Next is much in the vein of Modest Mouse’s previous (and fantastic) compilation Building Nothing out of Something, and is a collection of b-sides and singles from the Good News and We Were Already Dead sessions that didn’t quite make it onto a LP. But the songs aren’t just mere outtakes. Included with a couple of new tracks are full re-recordings of the previously shelved tracks, making the album feel far from a group of oddities thrown together. The extra effort in production might indicate the same level-headed polish found on the band’s last two LPs, but this isn’t the case. And, in a good way, No One’s First retains some of the rough edges that characterized Modest Mouse’s early work.

The songwriting, however, very much evokes the sessions these songs sprang from. So while “Satellite Skin” has some of the ratty, distorted guitar from the Modest Mouse of old, it keeps a solid composure that resembles the band’s recent brand of cross-eyed pop. The start of “Guilty Cocker Spaniels” even has a shuffle similar to Modest Mouse’s breakthrough single, “Float On.” But what makes this compilation most like the band’s recent efforts is its dabbling in bluegrass and Americana. These genres have always been an influence on Modest Mouse, but No One’s First finds the band drawing on their even more traditional aspects.

“Autumn Beds” is a sincere stab at a breezy acoustic ballad, and succeeds wonderfully with the addition of a rustic banjo keeping its pace, while “Perpetual Motion Machine” is another great drunken sing-along penned by Isaac Brock, with its combination of surly horns and twangy guitars heightening its world-weary merriment. These elements are taken in a different direction on “King Rat,” a dark and restless song, and perhaps the best track of the bunch. Its erratic mix of saloon, bluegrass and rock—going to and from banjos, brass band, and electric guitar—has a mad logic behind it that adds an edge to the song’s epic scope. By the end, when Brock’s vocals regress into yelps and barks, they seem to have every reason to do so.

The entire album isn’t as engaging, and there are times where it’s apparent that this is a waiting room between LPs. Every song has its good idea or two, but some of them just don’t go anywhere, such as “The Whale Song,” which, by extending two repetitive motifs to six minutes, is as bloated as the animal in its title. But weak points aside, No One’s First is a surprisingly solid offering for being a collection of “extra” material, and is a worthy addition to the band’s canon.

geoffrey anstey

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