what good songs do you know?
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Modest Mouse - "Bukowski" [radio rip]. From the much-circulated radio rip of MM's upcoming Good News For People Who Like Bad News. One of my favourite tracks on the record, though a far cry from the brilliant sparkle-flecked cyclops-eye pop of "Float On." (In other words, this is more 'typical' Modest Mouse.) Still - the cello and accordeon pump along like an organic printing-press, muscle and blood and heart pressing sheafs of heretical pamphlets: "...if God gives life then he's an Indian-giver..." Plus: banjo.

Dan gave me a mix CD of Modest Mouse songs, to try to fully convert me. Although I think the new album's truly swell, and ditto for The Moon and Antarctica, this music's not yet convinced me of the group's long-view greatness. All of the songs are interesting, and many are terrific ("Here It Comes," "Trailer Trash," "Talking Shit About a Pretty Sunset"), but a lot of them are frustratingly flawed. Maybe that's the point - broken melodies and blemished songs of crooked lives (and that's the reason I'll definitely keep listening to this), - but I can't get away from the feeling that much of Modest Mouse's older stuff sounds like a smart, bold-visioned band that is still growing up. (Cf, Radiohead's Pablo Honey.) The instrumental smash at the end of "Talking Shit..." is beautiful-ugly, but why does it need to open with such a shabby Bright Eyes impression?

Are there any Modest Mouse fans out there who want to give some tips for how to listen?

G-Unit - "My Buddy". G-Unit's Beg 4 Mercy is terrific. Steely and casual, with variety (but not too much), and cool grey confidence. I like it better than Get Rich Or Die Tryin' - but the reasons are murky. All I can put my finger on is that I, uh, like the songs better. Whereas the melody of "P.I.M.P." or "Many Men" kind of grated, Beg 4 Mercy clicks for me on almost every track. On "My Buddy," we hear about 50's best friend, his gun. But beyond the slurred trundle of the rap, the silly-sinister synthsichord, what's most exhilerating is the way that the ammunition pops blister the sighing choral lull, the story that tears and rips and fires right through G-Unit's chrome swagger.

Preview the Unicorns' track "2014," which is to be released on a Suicide Squeeze 7" [via lhb]. Left-handed sci-fi disco. Not sure if this is the same version that will appear on the record - it may have been rerecorded. It's complicated because the version of "I Was Born (A Unicorn)" that's available at Zebox is from before Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone, but I don't remember "2014" being there when I last visited the site, over a year ago... Oh, hey, there's a ton of old Unicorns tracks still available on the mcgill site: here.

Posted by Sean at February 21, 2004 12:46 AM

As for listening to the mouse, mixed CDs don't cut it. The albums are what solidifies them for me. You can put one on and listen to it over and over...their music is really dynamic i think, you never really know what they are gonna throw at you. I'll listen to a song a couple times and I'll find something new to grab my attention each time. my $.02

Posted by Robb at February 21, 2004 10:23 AM

Old-school Modest Mouse was one of my first exposure to the indie scene of yesteryear (much before they signed on with Epic), and like everybody, I had my qualms with the band. Isaac's voice and the almost expiermental guitar riffs were all virgin, uncharted territory for my young ears. But from the beginning I tought myself to keep an open mind so that I can recognize the band's amazing artistry.

Keep an open mind, man. Let it grow on you. When it does, you'll be hooked.

Posted by brent at February 21, 2004 11:49 AM

Not to criticize your criticism too much, but I don't think the opening of "Talking shit.." sounds anything like Brighteyes, especially since Modest Mouse has been around far longer than that Connor Oberest.

Posted by Joe at February 21, 2004 2:31 PM

My first exposure to MM was Lonesome Crowded West, and its still the record I'd offer for new listeners. Its immediately catchy, the music has a bit more velocity than their later records and it sounds as tho he's just discovering that signature wah-wah harmonic thing. I was really blown away by the music on this record, and I let the lyrics kinda sneak up on me -- and a treat they turned out to be. Most effective use of "goddamn" in all of semi-popular music.

Posted by Jack at February 21, 2004 2:51 PM

I really disagree with you about beg being better than die rich. Although it is beautifully produced and i definitely dug it for the first week, the weak rapping and memebeats start to grate and leave my memory sore.
Die Rich at least had an em verse or two to break up the tedium. This is like sleepwalking into a carjacking. I still like "gangsta shit", though.
For my money, G Unit's best stuff is the hijacked beats that are (and were) popping up on bootlegs, mix tapes and dj shows. Try and find "After My Chedda", "Call Me", "Fuck You", "Don't Even Call Me", "Ghetto Koran" and "I Wanna" and tell me what you think.
Oh and hey Sean: I decided to invest a little cash and start hosting a few tracks. Stop by and tell me if anything piques your interest.

Posted by forksclovetofu at February 21, 2004 3:55 PM

Hmm... I'll try to hunt down some of those G-Unit tracks, forks. I haven't had this record for even a week, so I may yet follow your path - die rich certainly went that route.

oh, and your blog looks astoundingamazing. I added it to the sidebar yesterday (when I redid those links), but today I'll be promoting it. :)

Posted by Sean at February 21, 2004 8:00 PM

i have to admit that though i consider myself a modest mouse fan i usually don't listen to a lot of their music that often. i do however listen to "Bankrupt on Selling" on a weekly basis. it's pretty simple, yet strikes me as near perfect.

if that's not on your mix cd than make sure you hear it.

Posted by justiny at February 22, 2004 7:25 AM

Yeah, I am a huge Modest Mouse fan, but I would agree that their early stuff is uneven. There are classic tracks like Never Ending Math Equation and Dramamine, but there is also a lot of music that feels like it's just trying to accomplish a feel, rather than be a song. That said, Lonesome Crowded West and The Moon and Antarctica are both great albums start to finish. Mix CDs just don't cut it. And they are really amazing live, although Isaac Brook can be a bit of a prick sometimes.

Posted by Scott at February 22, 2004 2:35 PM

Just wanted to say: thanks for the various Unicorns links and info. I'm seeing them do their first show in San Francisco tomorrow night and couldn't be more thrilled about it. The links may have convinced a couple friends to join me; we'll see.

That version of "I Was Born (A Unicorn)" may be the one from their first album, which is now out of print.

Posted by MoeRex at February 24, 2004 4:54 PM

anyone else agree that This is a Long Drive.. is by far MM's best album?


Posted by bard at February 25, 2004 11:53 AM

Modest Mice:

Man, I agree with the above that mixes don't really cut it with this band. You really need to *drive* to their first two albums (This is a Long... and Lonesome Crowded) to really get them. As for Moon and Antarctica, you gotta listen to that album on headphones or a good stereo. The new album is just awesome, proving that they were always a closet pop band.

Couple more things... The only real way to "get" Mouse is to see them live. More than any other band I've seen, their live show is what really converts. So much energy that I still talk about a show I saw three years ago.

Lyrics--This is what does it for me. They're the only rock band whose lyrics are as powerful as Dylan, Oldham, etc. Check the end of "Gravity Rides..."

When we die, some sink and some lay
But at least I don't see you float away
And all the spilt milk, sex and weight
It all will fall, fall right into place

Sorry for the ramble--they're just my baby. Give em more time or catch them at a show.

Rock out.

Posted by Matt at March 11, 2004 12:49 AM

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This is a daily sampler of really good songs. All tracks are posted out of love. Please go out and buy the records.

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about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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