Saturday, September 26, 2015

Building nothing out of something - Songs 90 to 86


Many Modest Mouse songs take a few listens to fully appreciate. I think it's because of their complexity and multi-layered structure. The vast majority of bands use simple structures that make you feel like you know songs you are listening to for the first time. While predictable may lead to wider appeal and greater success, it doesn't necessarily mean great songs emerge from that formula. I don't mind making more of an effort up front if the ultimate payoff is more rewarding. I mention all this because I don't want you to write off this great music on just one listen. We live in a world that almost demands instant gratification, and it's hard to capture anyone's attention for long. Fans of Modest Mouse know the importance of this music and I am hoping more people can feel what I feel by reading this series of rankings and thoughts about the songs.

Let's get back to the countdown:

90. She Ionizes & Atomizes (This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About)

She ionizes and atomizes
Then turns to sunlight

He realizes and itemizes
Pulls harder than gravity

She ionizes and atomizes
Then turns to sunlight

Fluorescent light bulbs will,
Make an absence of dark,
But the light just ain't there still
And she said:

"I'm feeling empty
The real lights can make you heavy but
But never ever really empty
Fluorescent lights will always equal empty"

This song kicks off with some raw vocals and sounds a little disjointed at first. It's the effect that I was talking about in my opening paragraph. But if you listen a few times, something clicks, and everything falls into place. Then, of course, there's a great payoff. The last two minutes erupt and leave me wanting more of that full band sound. The contrast works well on its own and even better in the context of the whole album.



89. Other People's Lives (Building Nothing Out of Something)

Other people's lives seem more interesting
'cause they ain't mine
Other people's lives seem more interesting
'cause they ain't mine
Other people's lives seem more interesting
'cause they ain't mine
Other people's lives seem much more interesting

Well, I'm fed up and I need to go
Out of existence or just down the road forever
Well, later that night on the side of the road
I'm out of gas and I should have known better
Well, a guy shows up, he's 25 years old
Always thought this kid was such a mama's boy
He said, and that's what he said
He's been in the army and he did some speed
He went down to Thailand, and he did the deed
Oh yeah, he did it for the boys
A cop shows up, way damn late
I was excited, but usually I hate to see them

Other people's lives seem more interesting
'cause they ain't mine
Other people's lives seem more innocent
'cause they ain't mine
Other people's lives seem more interesting
'cause they ain't mine
Other people's lives seem more interesting
'cause they ain't mine

Later that night on the side of the road
I'm out of gas and I should have known better, yeah
I'm fed up and I need to go out of existence
Or just down the road forever, oh yeah
Well, a guy shows up, he's 25 years old
Always steals his kisses, such a mama's boy
He said, and that's what he said
Palm tree houses way down the lane
I was excited but usually I hate to see them, yeah

On the road
Out of road
Going out
Out of gas
Out of road
Out of car
Out of everything at last
Out, out, rent a car
Got yourself a crazy walk
Said a bowlegged
Or maybe you're just peglegged
Or something like that

Well, later at night on the side of the road
I'm out of gas and I should have known better, oh yeah
Cop showed up, way damn late
I was excited but usually I hate to see them, yeah

Big car, and I should've promised myself
I can not go when there's nothing better
And it's better all alone on the side of the road
I could've sworn she left when I was drunk
My god, now her face is gone
It goes on and on and on and on
Out of gas and nothing left
Got caught but I'm still on the gas
I said, I said, I said now I'm going to break my pace

Building Nothing Out of Something may be a compilation, but these are not weak songs by any means. At over seven minutes, Other People's Lives is one of the band's longer songs. I hear all kinds of craziness in there as I listen. The lyrics tell one story and the music transports me millions of years into the past. The image I get is of a huge dinosaur stomping through a forest and disturbing all manner of weird creatures. The spirals from guitar add to that atmospheric vibe. Another thing that grabs my attention is the lyrics. It's a simple theme, but think how true it is. We often wonder what it would be like to live in another country or if we lived the lifestyle of someone else, don't we? The mumbled section of lyrics echoes the thoughts of Out of Gas. The whole song is quite a journey, musically and lyrically.



88. Whenever You Breathe Out, I Breathe In (Positive Negative) (Building Nothing Out of Something) 

Hey, haven't seen you around in a while
Hey, haven't seen you around in a while
Hey, haven't seen you around in a while
Hey, haven't seen you around in a while

I didn't go to work for a month
I didn't leave my bed for eight days straight
I haven't hung out with anyone
Because if I did, I'd have nothing to say

I didn't feel angry or depressed
I didn't feel anything at all
I didn't want to go to bed
And I didn't want to stay up late

When you're living your life, well, that's the price you pay

Whenever I breathe out, you're breathing it in
Whenever I speak out, you're speaking it in
Whenever I breathe out, you're breathing it in
Whenever I speak out, you take it all in

I'm feeling this positive, negative, positive, negative
I'm feeling this positive, negative, positive, negative
I'm feeling this positive, negative, positive, negative

I didn't go to work for a month
I didn't leave my bed for eight days straight
I haven't hung out with anyone
Because if I did, I'd have nothing to say

Another song that builds slowly and quietly, before an outburst of emotion. When the band kicks in, the spiral guitar and that definitive drum sound unleashes so much energy. Then it's back to the quiet final verse. I often feel like people don't care what I think or say. There's probably only one person in my life that allows me to open up and express everything, and I realize more and more how valuable that is.



87. One Chance (Good News for People Who Love Bad News)

We have one chance
One chance to get everything right
We have one chance
One chance
And if we're lucky we might

My friends, my habits, my family
They mean so much to me
I just don't think that it's right
I've seen so many ships sail in
Just to head back out again and go off sinking

I'm just a box in a cage
I'm just a box in a cage
I'm just a box, just a box in a cage
I'm just a box, just a box in a cage
I'm just a box, just a box in a cage
I'm just a box in a cage

Didn't mean to laugh
Didn't know I had
Didn't know the better part of what you said
Because in your head you are not home
Didn't get the joke
Didn't mean to poke another
Just to save myself from some something
Something or another one
Well, walk home

I'm just a box in a cage
I'm just a box in a cage
I'm just a box, just a box in a cage
I'm just a box in a cage
I'm just a box, just a box in a cage
I'm just a box, just a box in a cage
I'm just a box in a cage

We have one chance
One chance to get everything right
My friends, my habits, my family
They mean so much to me
I just don't think that it's right
I've seen so many ships sail in
Just to head back out again and go off sinking

The structure of this song is simple and accessible, and it would fit well on the latest album. But it's from more than a decade ago. Notice how the lyrics assault you with so much information. So while the musical structure is simple, the lyrics make me think. I wall myself off to a large extent, focusing on hobbies instead of looking for new people in my life. This entire series backs that up, but I care about writing it. I rarely devote much time to any one thing, but when I do it can approach obsession. So what is the title referring to? One life, and one chance to get it right? One chance to impress a potential romantic partner? Are the ships referring to people, or any opportunity to experience something new? It's a great song, whatever the meaning. Maybe this is a good song to play someone totally new to the band?



86. Polar Opposites (The Lonesome Crowded West)

Polar opposites don't push away
It's the same on the weekends as the rest of the days
And I know I should go but I will probably stay
And that's all you can do about some things

I'm trying, I'm trying to drink away the part of the day
That I cannot sleep away
I'm trying, I'm trying to drink away the part of the day
That I cannot sleep away

Two one-eyed dogs, they're looking at stereos
Hi-fi gods try so hard to make their cars low to the ground

These vibrations oil its teeth
Primer gray is the color when you're done dying

I'm trying, I'm trying to drink away the part of the day
That I cannot sleep away
I'm trying, I'm trying to drink away the part of the day
That I cannot sleep away

Uh-oh, there goes another song from my favorite album of all time. How can I be so disloyal? It is so difficult to rank songs when you love virtually everything the band has ever released (and a lot of things they haven't released). I guess it's like choosing between your children, or pizza over Indian food? Do you ever feel like you are wasting your life? I know that I do. Although I don't drink away the parts of the day that I cannot sleep away, I completely understand that sentiment. The next time I visit the hi-fi gods will be when all of the Modest Mouse back catalogue is available in high definition.



That concludes this segment. The next part will cover songs 85 to 81. As always, here's how the ranking is shaping up thus far, along with links to the other parts in this series. Thanks for reading.

100. Birds Vs Worms
99. Fire It Up
98. We've Got Everything
97. Dukes Up
96. Out of Gas
95. Strangers to Ourselves
94. Of Course We Know
93. Space Travel Is Boring
92. Styrofoam Boots/It's All Nice on Ice, Alright
91. Dance Hall
90. She Ionizes & Atomizes
89. Other People's Lives
88. Whenever You Breathe Out, I Breathe In (Positive Negative)
87. One Chance
86. Polar Opposites

Building nothing out of something (overview)
Building nothing out of something - songs 85 to 81
Building nothing out of something - songs 80 to 76
Building nothing out of something - songs 75 to 71
Building nothing out of something - songs 70 to 66
Building nothing out of something - songs 65 to 61
Building nothing out of something - songs 60 to 56
Building nothing out of something - songs 55 to 51
Building nothing out of something - songs 50 to 46
Building nothing out of something - songs 45 to 41
Building nothing out of something - songs 40 to 36
Building nothing out of something - songs 35 to 31
Building nothing out of something - songs 30 to 26
Building nothing out of something - songs 25 to 21
Building nothing out of something - songs 20 to 16
Building nothing out of something - songs 15 to 11
Building nothing out of something - songs 10 to 6
Building nothing out of something - the Top 5

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