Xenophobia, paranoia, and claustrophobia, if combined and made audible, would sound like Modest Mouse at their most terrifyingly accurate portrayals of the nature of the soul. The band excels, astonishingly, at breaching these strange and terrible human emotions in their most heated breakdowns of blaring horns and crunchy banjos. Specifically on 2004's Good News For People Who Love Bad News, and specifically here on the scorching "King Rat," Brock's shouts feel infused with some sort of supernatural energy. The intensity captured is probably why Good News made a dent in the charts at a time when Brock's off-kilter singing could barely get on the radio. But it did, with an incredibly humanizing, comforting, simple mantra: "we'll all float on." Funny how the same water is "deep," desolate and consuming on the polar opposite b-side "King Rat." Brock laughs at the start, "I love this shit" and I'm totally with him; Modest Mouse traverses the gamut of neuroses so well, I needed to walk around outside in silence for a few minutes after listening at my desk just to reorient myself.
This collection is essentially a scrapbook. Even though it's a collection of unused recordings from the Bad News/We Were Dead sessions, they really sound as expansive as Mouse's long, fruitful career of weirdness. Brock sings sweetly on "Autumn Beds," and bitter sweetly right in the middle of the six minute mostly instrumental "The Whale Song" (Ironically crying "so everyone can find a way out" over and over smack in the middle of the thick of the EP). Then on "History Sticks To Your Feet," he sounds younger and more like the early washed out rock anthems of Build Something Out Of Nothing. And then Brock scares us a little with his Bad News banjo and brass, growling "deep water" and laughing maniacally, "you know it was all wrong." And the video (directed by Heath Ledger) certainly adds new levels to the track.
Modest Mouse continues to oscillate around a point of sound, affecting different dimensions with their schizophrenia. "Mrs. sweet and awful" is a great way to describe the two faced tonality. "I've got it all/ I've got it all almost figured out" Brock cries at the end, and again, I'm with him. He's not quite there yet. And I'm pretty sure he never will be, because that would take all the fun out of listening. -Joe Puglisi