Marking the end of an eight-year hiatus for Modest Mouse, Strangers To Ourselves sadly doesn’t strike as a big leap in development for the band. All the hallmarks of the band’s later incarnation are back, Isaac Brock’s semi-yokel cadence, the odd airy note-bends on guitar and several well written and immaculately produced tracks, and while this results in a digestible album, it doesn’t make for a memorable one.
But Modest Mouse still know how to make a damn good song. Lampshades on Fire is a fine example of this, carrying clever vocals, catchy riffs and snappy drums as it toys with ideas of rampant human consumerism eventually destroying everything. Opener and title track, Strangers To Ourselves,is both calm and sensitive with its violin, restrained vocals and distant guitar, and outside of all this there are no tracks that feel rushed, lazy or simple.
The issue isn’t due to any real flaws – rather Strangers to Ourselves plays it way too safe. None of the tracks are excitingly different from their previous two albums, and the release seems to cater for the radio-indie market rather than pushing the band to new heights. The song, Pistol, tries to take a step towards being experimental but just comes off as boring. Wicked Campaign doesn’t separate the band from modern indie, drawing connotations to the puke inducing stadium rock of modern Kings Of Leon, and Ansel gives off the unshakable feeling of an alt-j song with its similar steel drum patterning.
Sadly, Strangers To Ourselves probably isn’t the comeback fans will truly want.