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“Strangers to Ourselves” is alien to Modest Mouse’s own legacy

Indie-rock band comes back after eight-year hiatus with a lackluster return

Indie-rockers Modest Mouse released their newest album, “Strangers to Ourselves,” following an eight-year gap from their last studio album, “We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank.” Over the course of six albums, Modest Mouse has established itself as a constantly changing band. Their first few albums were jagged, brilliantly-crafted alternative gems that helped define the generation of indie rock musicians who followed in the group’s footsteps. With the releases of 2004’s “Good News for People Who Love Bad News” and 2007’s “We Were Dead…,” their sound remained unique, but tinged with radio-friendly pop aesthetics.

“Strangers to Ourselves” is stunningly average — a word that typically does not fit a description of Modest Mouse. Some of the hooks are catchy, but the LP overall is filled with relatively uninteresting lyrics and songs that sound like they try too hard to be experimental — see “Pistol (A. Cunanan, Miami, FL. 1996)” for example. “Lampshades On Fire,” while a decently arranged single, comes off as trying too hard to sound like the band’s smash hit “Float On,” with its sickeningly catchy “bah bah badada’s”. The vocals and instrumentals still have that characteristic Modest Mouse sound, but are over-produced and detractive.

Of course, the record has its shining moments — “Pups to Dust,“ “Ansel” and “The Tortoise and the Tourist” are an excellent trio of tracks. However, Modest Mouse’s rough edges have been toned down significantly. Not only does “Strangers to Ourselves” sound insincere, but its polished, wonderless production seems like the product of a wasted eight years.