Modest Mouse’s last album ‘Strangers to Ourselves’ came along eight years after its predecessor ‘We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank’, after a gestation so protracted that, at one point, they cancelled a UK tour to finish it. Vowing to make its follow-up a speedier affair, ‘The Golden Casket’ still arrives more than six years later - timeliness is clearly still not their forte.
That album felt messy and diffuse, a sprawling affair that suggested the Portland outfit didn’t quite know where to turn after the departure of Johnny Marr, who steered them in a riff-driven direction on ‘We Were Dead…’ On ‘The Golden Casket’, they’ve not necessarily become any more stylistically single-minded - their approach remains a scattershot one - but it feels like they’re bringing a rediscovered confidence with them. Often, you can hear them pulling in different directions on the same song; ‘We Are Between’ starts out sounding like Joy Division, before the funk-inflected guitars come in, while ‘Leave a Light On’ flits between airy pop in the verses and soft anthemics on the chorus. It’s the kind of restlessness that suits them nicely, not least because frontman Isaac Brock remains a bundle of nervous energy himself, his often-agitated vocals providing a neat throughline. This is not quite Modest Mouse at their best, but they’re not a million miles away from it, either.