Saturday, October 17, 2015

Building nothing out of something - songs 50 to 46


It's getting tougher to decide the five songs that should be listed next. I've been working on my shortlist for this round since Wednesday, playing the candidates repeatedly to determine the order. I sometimes wish I could just hit a button and automatically know my favorite songs, but that would take all of the fun out of it. There are 16 songs which could have been chosen this round, and the rankings are getting tougher to decide with every remaining song being among my favorites.

Let's get started on the Top 50:

50. The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box (Strangers to Ourselves)

Open up the window, all the air, oh the air is falling out
Eyes vacuum up light, sound gets trapped by the mouth
We'll deal with the remainder when the dents, the dents get hammered out
Then we'll travel through time

The world's an inventor with its work crawlin' runnin' squirmin' 'round
Trees drop colorful fruits directly into our mouths
The world's an inventor, we're the dirtiest thing its thought about
And we really don't mind

We'll probably never get there, bring your sightseer school teachers down
It's a water color weekend, all the trees are turning colors now
We'll probably never get there, bring your candy taster, time wasters around
And we'll fuck with their minds

The world composes with his shirt tails wrinkled hangin' out
Bang us together see what sort of sounds we make right now
The world plays music playing skin on teeth inside of a mouth
What sort of sounds? What lovely sounds come about?

We greased all the ropes (the part of the ground)
We'll throw you a line (that's above the ground)
We're gonna break these boulders (we're the part of the ground)
We're gonna pull things out (that when things come together)

We greased all the ropes (come bubbling outwards)
We'll throw you a line (and then sink back)
We're gonna break these boulders (come bubbling outwards)
We're gonna travel time (when things come together)

We're gonna throw a party, all the ghosts of trees are coming out
Don't look any direction, wait until the light's inside of the clouds
You're gonna wanna see this, don't bring your camera around
Watch sun and sawdust align

We greased all the ropes (come bubbling outwards)
We'll throw you a line (then sinking back)
We're gonna break these boulders (the part of the ground)
We're gonna pull things out (that when things come together)
We greased all the ropes (come bubbling outwards)
We'll throw you a line (gets above the ground)
We're gonna break these boulders (come bubbling outwards)
We're gonna travel time (and then sink back)

Close up the window, all the air, all the air is falling out
Eyes vacuum up light, sound gets trapped by the mouth
Our predecessor left this box and something's clawing around
I think it really wants out

I struggled to rank this song. It has so many elements that I look for, but one or two that I am not so fond of. The good points are the incredible depth of the rhythm section and Brock's vocals. The last couple of minutes doesn't contain any vocals and the band shows just how much is going into making up that huge sound. The things that stop it from being a contender for the Top 20 or Top 10 are the sing-a-long nature of the chorus, and the dance feel present in some sections of the song. The chorus seems just to easy and is something that less inventive bands would include in almost every song they produce.

For me, one of the appeals of Modest Mouse is that the music is so original and unpredictable. I know that sounds picky, but it's hard to find any fault in these songs if you love the band as much as I do. This is one song with the potential to grow on me enormously over the years.

Here's a great live version:



49. Alone Down There (The Moon & Antarctica)

How do, how do you do? My name is You
Flies, they all gather around me and you too
You can't see anything well
You ask me what size it is, not what I sell
The flies, they all gather around me and you too

Well I don't want you to be alone down there
To be alone down there, to be alone
Yeah I don't want you to be alone down there
To be alone down there, to be alone

The devil's apprentice he gave me some credit
He fed me a line and I'll probably regret it
I don't want you to be alone down there
To be alone down there, to be alone

I don't want you to be alone down there
To be alone down there, to be alone
Yeah, I don't want you to be alone down there
To be alone down there, to be alone

I've said it before, but when you extract songs from The Moon & Antarctica, you run the risk of losing what's present in the overall effect. Admit it, you almost need to hear The Stars Are Projectors now, don't you? It feels like part of the same song. Everything is great about this song, but it just doesn't work as well when isolated. The music ranges from slow and reflective to a wall of sound explosion. I sometimes feel that I am alone down here, then I talk to a friend or listen to Modest Mouse and everything is right with the world.



48. Float On (Good News for People Who Love Bad News)

I backed my car into a cop car the other day
Well, he just drove off - sometimes life's okay
I ran my mouth off a bit too much, ah what did I say?
Well, you just laughed it off and it was all okay

And we'll all float on okay
And we'll all float on okay
And we'll all float on okay
And we'll all float on anyway, well

A fake Jamaican took every last dime with that scam
It was worth it just to learn some sleight of hand
Bad news comes, don't you worry even when it lands
Good news will work its way to all them plans
We both got fired on, exactly, the same day
Well, we'll float on, good news is on the way

And we'll all float on okay
And we'll all float on okay
And we'll all float on okay
And we'll all float on alright

Already we'll all float on
Now don't you worry we'll all float on alright
Already we'll all float on alright
Don't worry we'll all float on

Alright, already
And we'll all float on alright
Already we'll all float on alright
Don't worry even if things end up a bit too heavy
We'll all float on alright

Already, we'll all float on alright
Already, we'll all float on okay
Don't worry, even if things get heavy
We'll all float on alright

Already, we'll all float on
(Alright!)
Now don't you worry, we'll all float on
(Alright!)
We'll all float on

Float On is probably a song that made a lot of people aware of Modest Mouse, so that's obviously a great thing. I like this quote from an interview with Brock by The A.V. Club:

"It was a completely conscious thing. I was just kind of fed up with how bad shit had been going, and how dark everything was, with bad news coming from everywhere. Our president George W. Bush is just a fucking daily dose of bad news! Then you've got the well-intentioned scientists telling us that everything is fucked. I just want to feel good for a day."

Well, I think it worked. The song definitely has a feel-good vibe, and it gave Modest Mouse a breakthrough by earning a Grammy nomination and top spot on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. The song is incredibly simple musically, being driven by that bass. Brock's voice is like an instrument itself, and his improvisation leaves me in no doubt as to who is performing.

To reinforce the positive message, Brock gives us this great lyric:

"A fake Jamaican took every last dime with that scam
It was worth it just to learn some sleight of hand"

I like to think that I am capable of seeing positives in almost everything if I allow myself to think deeply enough.

It feels weird ranking such an iconic song this low, but it just proves what I have been ranting about for so long - incredible strength in depth!

Here's a live BBC version from a UK festival:



47. King Rat (No One's First and You're Next)

Well, well, well, well

We spun like birds on fire right down towards the residents and I
I took all that I desired, even crooks have to pay the rent
We swam like rats on fire right, right down the reservoir
We took all that we could carry, but we tried to carry more

And you know, you know, you know it all went wrong
And you know, you know, you know it was all wrong

We choked on straight tap water well I'm gonna have to try the real thing
I took your laugh by the collar and it knew not to swing
Anytime I tried an honest job well the till had a hole in it.. ha-ha
We laughed 'bout payin' rent 'cause the county jails they're free

And you know, you know, you know it was all wrong
And you know, you know, you know it was all wrong

Deep water, deep water
Senseless denial
I went down like a rag doll, rage of a child, well
Deep water, deep water
Senseless denial
I went down like a rag doll rage of a child, well

Oh, lucky lucky lucky lucky me again
I said it looks like it's time to use my feet again
Well I just spent my last one hundred dollars
God I'll pay my bail again

Oh, I don't care
Oh, how I just don't care

Deep water, deep water
Senseless denial
I went down like a rag doll shaken and shy
Deep water, deep water
Senseless denial
Oh I went down like a bird, dog, rat of a child

Well king rat has me on his list again
I can never be on the fence again
I found out it's all loud
Open like an organ and it
Talk, talk, talk, talk again
He promised me that when I cheated him
That I could owe them my heart, well
Lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky
Lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky me again

Deep water, deep water
This senseless denial
I got fed by a fist full of open smiles
Blue water, deep water
Oh senseless denial
I got fed a fist by that con fuck "styles"

Well... well...
What do you have to say for yourself?
I said, well well, Well
I said well, well, well, well

Lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky me again
I hardly knew I should use my feet again
What do you have to say for yourself?
What do you have to say for yourself?

King Rat is a glorious mess and perhaps the song that has grown on me the most over the past couple of years. It feels like a complete assault on the senses. I remember one concert where it opened the show, and chills of anticipation went through me as Brock screamed "well" over and over again.

It's vulgar, annoying, in your face, loud, complex, and a number of other things. There's the banjo, which seems utterly appropriate for the stuttering style of the song. Then violin, horns, and Brock going crazy. He sings this song like he is possessed.

King Rat seems to sum up one side of the world that we live in. It's dangerous and ugly out there. Whenever I see the banjo appear at a concert, I'm kinda hoping to hear this song. I like the Brock that lives on the edge of madness.

Here's the official video:



46. Lampshades On Fire (Strangers to Ourselves)

Mmm buh, buh, buh, buh, buh, buh, buh-duh-dah
Duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh-duh-dah

We're all goin', we're all goin'

Well, the lampshade's on fire when the lights go out
The room lit up and we ran about
Well, this is what I really call a party now
Packed up our cars, moved to the next town

Well, the lampshades's on fire when the lights go out
This is what I really call a party now
Well, fear makes us really, really run around
This one's done so where to now?

Our eyes light up, we have no shame at all
Well you all know what I'm talking' about
Shaved off my eyebrows when I fall to the ground
So I can't look surprised right now

Pack up again, head to the next place
Where we'll make the same mistakes
Burn it up, or just chop it down
Ah, this one's done so where to now?

Buh, buh, buh, buh, buh, buh, buh-duh-dah
Duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh-duh-dah

We're all goin', we're all goin'

Well, the lampshade's on fire when the lights go out
This is what I really call a party now
Well, fear makes us really, really run around
Ah, this one's done so where to now?

Our eyes light up, we have no shame at all
Well, you all know what I'm talkin' about
The room lights up, well, we're still dancing around
We're havin' fun, havin' some for now

Pack up again, head to the next place
Where we'll make the same mistakes
Open one up and let it fall to the ground
Pile out the door when it all runs out

Buh, buh, buh, buh, buh, buh, buh-duh-dah
Duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duh-duh-dah

We're all goin', we're all goin'

We have spines in our bones
We'll eat your food, we'll throw stones
Oh, this is how it's always gone
And this is how it's goin' to go

Well, we're the human race
We're goin' to party out of this place
And then move on

Tough love

We'll kill you off and then make a clone
Yeah, we got spines, yeah, we have bones
This is how it's always gone
And this is how it's goin' to go

As our feelings are getting hurt
Ah, we want you to do the work
Our ass looks great inside these jeans
Well, we all just don't wanna' clean

Oh, this is how it's always been
And this is how it's goin' to be
So, you just move on

The air's on fire so we're movin' on
Better find another one 'cause this one's done
Waitin' for the magic when the scientists glow
To push, push, push, push, pull us up

Spend some time to float in outer space
Find another planet, make the same mistakes
Our mind's all shattered when we climb aboard
Hopin' for the scientists to find another door

The delivery makes the song sound quite catchy and accessible, but the lyrics are much darker. I think Brock is realistic about how shallow much of the human race is. We are truly consumers and most of us don't care about what damage we leave behind.

"Our ass looks great inside these jeans
Well, we all just don't wanna' clean"

"Well, we're the human race
We're goin' to party out of this place
And then move on"

"Find another planet, make the same mistakes"

It may be a bleak outlook, but I think it's an accurate assessment.

The song works for me and is one of my favorites from Strangers to Ourselves. Maybe that's because it's the first track I ever heard from the album? I like the way that the lyrics flow. Having heard it live, I particularly like the alternative ending. Check it out in this live version if you feel so inclined:



That's it for this installment. There are 45 songs left and 25 of them come from my three favorite albums. It won't be easy choosing the next five songs, but I'll do my best to have it ready in the next day or two. Thanks for reading.

Here's the story so far with links to the rest of the series:

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
60. Satin in Your Coffin
59. Shit in Your Cut
58. The View
57. Ansel
56. Custom Concern
55. Sugar Boats
54. Dashboard
53. Education
52. Bukowski
51. What People Are Made Of
50. The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box
49. Alone Down There
48. Float On
47. King Rat
46. Lampshades On Fire

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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