Modest Mouse – No One’s First and You’re Next [EP]

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The worst thing about this EP? The worst thing about this EP is when you realize that this is a collection of unreleased tracks and b-sides dating as far back as Good News for People Who Love Bad News, and how much better the preceding albums could have been if the best songs here replaced some of the garbagier (?! This is a real word?!) ones on those albums. Not to say thatNo One’s First and You’re Next is perfect. I can do without the really clunky and too-long “King Rat,” whose main selling point seems to be that the music video was directed by a then-recently-deceased Heath Ledger (though I do like the way Isaac Brock moves his voice in certain bits, ie. how he sings “Reservoir”). Meanwhile, the drunken sway perpetuated by the horns on “Perpetual Motion Machine” would’ve been a lot more successful if there was a melody to sing-along to, and “History Sticks to Your Feet” is more or less “Little Motel”; a pretty riff and little more. 

The rest? “The Whale Song” has a climax like we haven’t heard from Modest Mouse since 2000, and the backing vocals are used to great effect, coming in like radio transmissions to help us get there. “Guilty Cocker Spaniel” is even better, starting much like “History” and ending with Brock shouting alongside a noisier guitar which leaves you ask how the hell you go there. Like “Dashboard,” opener “Satellite Skin” channels Isaac Brock’s shouting into an undeniably catchy thing. And if you’re unconvinced by the song itself, Brock’s lyrics are on fire: “You can say what you want, you’re forgiven / Well happy fucking congratulations” essentially sums up the Canadian stereotype, where if you apologize after anything you do anything wrong, you’re apparently automatically better than the American stereotype who doesn’t, while “Just like being my own solar system / Doing good things but then totally eclipse them” is the second best couplet of the entire package. My favorite song, though, is “I’ve Got It All (Most),” first appearing as the b-side on the “Float On” single, with quiet bits with the same sweet singing and bittersweet sentiment of “The Good Times Are Killing Me” and heavier bits that are more convincing than “Bury Me With It.” The best couplet on the EP: “How can someone inconsistent / Mess up so consistently?” 

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