Modest Mouse: No One's First, and You're Next (EP) (Sony/Epic) 

This enjoyable collection of odds and ends by Modest Mouse—an EP of eight tracks at 33 minutes—collects holdovers from the group's previous two LPs and serves as a fitting snapshot of a fecund career.

Opener "Satellite Skin," sporting the group's current lineup with Johnny Marr on guitar, displays wide hooks, plentiful quirks and Isaac Brock's retrospective defiance. ("Well, no we're not praying, we're kneeling.") "Guilty Cocker Spaniels" finds the Good News-era lineup charging through a peppery, vocally frantic song of building aggression.

"Autumn Beds" is one of Modest Mouse's finest pop moments. It's a hauntingly gorgeous tune that builds a menacing subtext of gallows imagery around a lilting chorus ("We won't be sleeping in our autumn beds"), gauzy atmospherics, gently plucked banjo and a guitar funneled through enough distortion to sound like an electric kazoo. "History Sticks to Your Feet" bounces across swirling guitar loops with increased intensity and punchy optimism. ("Don't you look at me like life don't hold you any more mystery.")

The EP occasionally falters. "The Whale Song" feels like a forced return to the epic guitar workouts of the group's earlier career. Its chirpy, looping arpeggios sound aimless, while its slight lyrics seem inconsequential; granted, its thrilling, thunderous conclusion works. Meanwhile, "Perpetual Motion Machine" is a loose, brass-laden tune whose improvisational approach doesn't work.

Still, it all makes for a charming EP of damaged pop, electrified folk and scrappy rock—or, another batch of Modest Mouse tunes.

More by Michael Petitti


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