Isaac Brock would be the first to agree that there is something untoward about a sullen band with roots in the 1990s, led by a guy in his late 40s who likes to play golf. But unlike the wildly misnamed Sonic Youth, Brock has decided to go along with the joke, making the new Modest Mouse release, The Golden Casket (Epic), almost a comedy album. Make no mistake, the band’s music retains the tension of its best albums, like The Moon and Antarctica. But now Modest Mouse is unafraid to fully own its poppier moments, while Brock’s lyrics shred the modern world in tracks like “Fuck Your Acid Trip.”
Even when Brock hints at the political, as in “Wooden Soldiers,” the lyrics are deeply surrealist, aligned with the band’s signature sound. Adding trumpets and marimbas makes them more than a guitar-centric indie rock legend, though it’s uncertain how that will translate to live performances such as their Sept. 28 Red Rocks headliner. Yes, The Golden Casket lags at times, but Brock chose a path to longevity by putting droll humor first. Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, who played with Modest Mouse a decade ago, said he’d love to return at any time, a sure sign of the band’s continued relevance and joie de vivre.
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The Wallflowers, Exit Wounds (New West Records) – Bob Dylan’s son Jakob has been busy as a filmmaker, and a decade has gone by since his last outing with The Wallflowers. Dylan’s voice has dropped a register in that time, from countrified tenor to a Tom Waits-like growl, but it fits this brand of Americana ideally. With slide guitar, organ, and Shelby Lynn on background vocals, this Wallflowers release feels very fleshed out, and Dylan’s lyrics in tracks like “The Dive Bar in My Heart” and “Move the River” are absolutely vibrant.
The Jenny Thing, American Canyon (s/r) – It’s always fun to catch the reunion of a one-hit wonder, which was the status of The Jenny Thing when they released the 1993 album Me, and promptly broke up. All four original members return on an eight-track album with hints of classic bands like Jimmy Eat World or Fountains of Wayne, though vocalist Matt Easton also infuses an essence of Elvis Costello. Songs like the title track and “Monsters of Mercy” seem destined to be classics.