Saturday, October 10, 2015

Building nothing out of something - songs 65 to 61


As I work through this project, I am continually reminded of the incredible strength in depth of Modest Mouse's catalogue. I have a playlist with about 30 of the very best songs, and as each one starts I find myself thinking how much I really want to hear that song. It's relentless and I can't remember having this much love for a band at any point in my life. I don't say that lightly because I once flew 3,000 miles for a Throwing Muses concert.

I'm a day late with this post because I had trouble deciding which songs to cut, and the order in which the next five should be ranked. I won't keep you in suspense any longer:

65. Lives (The Moon & Antarctica)

Everyone's afraid in their own life
If you could be anything you want
I bet you'd be disappointed, am I right?

No one really knows the ones they love
If you knew everything they thought
I bet that you'd wish that they'd just shut up

Well, you were the dull sound of sharp math
When you were alive
No ones gonna play the harp when you die
And if I had a nickel for every damn dime
I'd have half the time, do you mind?

Everyone's afraid in their own lives
If you could be anything you want
I bet you'd be disappointed, am I right?
Am I right? Am I right? Am I right?
Am I right? Am I right? Am I right?

And it's our lives
It's hard to remember, it's hard to remember
We're alive for the first time
It's hard to remember, it's hard to remember
Were alive for the last time
It's hard to remember, it's hard to remember
To live before you die
It's hard to remember, it's hard to remember
That our lives are such a short time
It's hard to remember, it's hard to remember
When it takes such a long time
It's hard to remember, it's hard to remember

My mom's God is a woman and my mom she is a witch
I like this
My hell comes from inside, comes from inside myself
Why fight this

Everyone's afraid in their own lives
If you could be anything you want
I bet you'd be disappointed, am I right?

I'm listening to Lives as I write this and a number of thoughts strike me. The Moon & Antarctica was my favorite Modest Mouse album for a few years. It's almost an alternative rock equivalent of The Dark Side of the Moon. What I mean by that is you can't rip these tracks out of the overall mix without losing something. The vast majority need to be heard as part of the whole album.

Lives eases in gently and contains great insight. The lyrics are particularly strong. Take the second verse and think about it:

"No one really knows the ones they love
If you knew everything they thought
I bet that you'd wish that they'd just shut up"

There are so many possible interpretations of that verse. The first line is so obviously true. We rarely open up completely, even to the people we love most in our lives. We are afraid of what they might think, or sometimes afraid that what we think about them might hurt them. So we are cautious about what we share. The rest of that verse is also true. Some thoughts that cross our minds aren't pleasant, while others would not interest anyone but ourselves. It would be utter chaos to be placed in the minds of our loved ones for even a few minutes.

That verse is followed by the brilliant line:

"Well, you were the dull sound of sharp math"

In a way, that line is close to the way I feel about myself. The tests claim that I am very intelligent and I am aware that most people I cross paths with do not think the same way that I do. However, that doesn't make me interesting, or fun to be around, or better than anyone else. I'm boring. I choose to spend what will end up being around 50 hours dissecting the songs of my favorite band. Someone else might just play the music, smile, dance around, get drunk, and get on with their lives.

I am the dull sound of sharp math.

Lives sounds stark and unsettling at the beginning, before picking up the pace in the second half of the song. The structure is almost as thought-inspiring as the lyrics. As the tempo changes around the 1:25 mark, I briefly think of Pinball Wizard's guitar sound.

It closes with another brilliant line:

"My hell comes from inside, comes from inside myself, why fight this"

My thoughts are getting longer as I work my way up the list. I hope you'll survive the journey. Here's the video for Lives:



64. Beach Side Property (This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About)

"Wow," said the broken Californian down
On the beach that used to be by the beach
Town hasn't moved but's gettin' closer, losin' ground
Makin' better views and close relaxin' sounds

Ground sure don't like the way it's treated so now
It's movin' back to the sea
Plan to hitch a ride with the river
'Cause deep down plumbin' life is too cramped for me

I got wood legs and bow legs and no legs at all
Goddamn, would you take a collect call?
Oh no, I don't understand

I got poor eyes and sore eyes and no eyes at all
Goddamn would you take a fall?
Oh no, I don't like this plan

It was a staple of brass tacks and waxed backs
Oh yeah, a message left on the forehead of God
Sent sealed and signed by the saints who sang this song
This song, this song

We're goin' union like they say
We'll buy the congregation
Then one day, you'll find us sittin'
In your chairs with big ideas of stocks and shares

We're goin' union like they say
We'll buy the congregation
Then one day, you'll find us sittin'
In your chairs with big ideas of stocks and shares

Beach Side Property is like a metaphor for the ocean. It can be raw and unbridled, like the vocals in the first two verses. Then there are moments of calm where the tide slowly ebbs and flows, before the ending produces the power as all of the elements combine. I like all of the various phases, but especially the sequences with the entire band all playing a part. Just listen to that bass combining with the guitar flourishes. If you ever dismissed This Is a Long Drive as being too unpolished, give it a few more plays. You might just become hooked.



63. Bankrupt On Selling (The Lonesome Crowded West)

Well all the apostles, they're sitting in swings
Saying, "I'd sell off my savior for a set of new rings
And some sandals with the style of straps that cling best to the era"

And all of the businessers in their unlimited hell
Where they buy and they sell and they sell all their
Trash to each other but they're sick of it all
And they're bankrupt on selling

And all of the angels
They'd sell off your soul for a set of new wings
And anything gold they remember
The people they loved their old friends

And I've seen through 'em all, seen through 'em all
Seen through most everything
All the people you knew were the actors
All the people you knew were the actors

Well, I'll go to college and all learn some big words
And I'll talk real loud goddamn right I'll be heard
You'll remember that guy said all those big words
He must've learned in college

And it took a long time, I came clean with myself
I come clean out of love with my lover
I still love her
Loved her more when she used to be sober and I was kinder

Bankrupt On Selling is another raw song, but in a different way to Beach Side Property. This one sounds like a man facing the bleak reality of the world and of his own existence. It's clearly heartfelt in the delivery, and brutally honest in the final verse. As I write this, I think of the guy in the movie Once. This song would fit well in that movie. It would be easy to imagine Brock playing this song solo, with just the acoustic guitar. The lyrics deserve to be showcased and not lost in the sound of the full band.

If you are tired of hearing bands that are marketed as products to be consumed, just listen to this song:



62. Shit Luck (The Lonesome Crowded West)

This plane is definitely crashing

This boat is obviously sinking

This building's totally burning down

And my, and my, and my, and my
And my, and my, and my, and my
And my, and my, and my, and my
And my, and my, and my, and my
And my heart has slowly dried up

It's hard to listen to Shit Luck without grinning and feeling a rush of adrenaline. It's a lot of fun. I sometimes treat the people at work to the opening line when we uncover a mistake. Brock's rants often produce some of my favorite songs and I definitely love this one. It's simple, to the point, and perhaps a little one-note, but what a note. I love hearing the crazy drums and the sheer excitement in the delivery.



61. Little Motel (We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank)

I hope that you like it in your little motel
And I hope that the suite sleeps and suits you well
Well, I can see it as time and a sight through smell and
That's why it's nice to be by yourself

'Cause that's what I'm waiting for
That's what I'm waiting for
That's what I'm waiting for, aren't I?
That's what I'm waiting for
That's what I'm waiting for
That's what I'm waiting for, darlin'

We treat mishaps like sinking ships and
I know that I don't want to be out to drift
Well, I can see it in your eyes like I taste your lips and
They both tell me that we're better than this

'Cause that's what I'm waiting for
That's what I'm waiting for
That's what I'm waiting for, aren't I?
That's what I'm waiting for
That's what I'm waiting for
That's what I'm waiting for, darlin'

We trade tit for tat like that for this
And I don't think that there was an insult that was missed
I can see it in your eyes like I taste your lips and
I'm very sorry

'Cause that's what I'm waiting for
That's what I'm waiting for
That's what I'm waiting for, aren't I?
That's what I'm waiting for
That's what I'm waiting for
That's what I'm waiting for, darlin'

The remainders of a shooting star
Landed directly on our broke down little car
Before then we had made a wish
That we would be missed if one or another just did not exist

'Cause that's what we're waiting for
That's what we're waiting for
That's what we're waiting on, aren't we?
That's what we're waiting for
That's what we're waiting for
That's what we're waiting on, aren't we?

That's what we're waiting for
That's what we're waiting for
That's what we're waiting for, darlin'
That's what we're waiting for
That's what we're waiting for
That's what we're waiting for, aren't we?

Little Motel would not be too out of place on The Moon & Antarctica, because there are long sequences which sound like someone taking a journey through space. The actual journey in this song sounds like a relationship coming to en end, with the broke down car being a metaphor for the end of that journey.  I particularly like how the vocals are delivered as the song ends.

Compare this song to the other four I have talked about today and take note of the massive contrast in styles. They are all saying something, but each has a distinct style and feel. I appreciate all of them.



That's all for this installment. Next time, I will venture into the Top 60. I have some work to do before I know the next five songs and the order in which they will be listed.

If you have any thoughts of your own about anything I have mentioned, please don't hesitate to share it.

Here's the story so far:

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
85. Might
84. Pups to Dust
83. Sunspots in the House of the Late Scapegoat
82. All Night Diner 
81. March Into the Sea
80. Coyotes
79. Blame It On the Tetons
78. The Good Times Are Killing Me
77. Perfect Disguise
76. A Life of Arctic Sounds
75. Satellite Skin
74. Ohio
73. People as Places as People
72. The Waydown
71. Guilty Cocker Spaniels
70. Florida
69. Missed the Boat
68. The Cold Part
67. Whenever You See Fit
66. Wicked Campaign
65. Lives
64. Beach Side Property
63. Bankrupt On Selling
62. Shit Luck
61. Little Motel

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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