The move of a decidedly indie band to a major label generally does one of two things: It either completely destroys the bandís career and any credibility that they may have had, or the major labelís increased cash flow and connections allow the band to finally realize their full artistic potential. With The Moon and Antarctica, their first release on the Epic imprint, Modest Mouse have thankfully been able to accomplish the latter, far more rare alternative.
Employing the production services of former Red Red Meat soundsmith Brian Deck, Modest Mouse have created an album of spectral beauty and epic (no pun intended) intent that is light years ahead of anything they have done in the past. It's an album filled with brittle sentimentality conveyed mainly through Isaac Brockís yearning howl, around which the band has sculpted microscopic symphonies dedicated to love, loss and the search for all that is eternal.
Deckís studio wizardry is evident throughout The Moon and Antarctica -- especially on two of its most formidable tracks, "Life Like Weeds" and "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes". "Life Like Weeds" stumbles woozily around a ghastly tectonic guitar chime and shifting rhythms, while "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes" is a slab of slippery, digitally-enhanced funk rock coupled with a multi-layered pseudo-rap from Brock and a host of highly affected backing voices. Other highlights include the strafing guitar and voracious yelp of "A Different City", the sprawling, loping sound collage that is "The Stars are Projectors" and the plaintively weird acoustic guitar shapes, soothing strings and biting lyrical tirade of "I Came as a Rat". As a whole, it is no doubt one of the most gorgeously realized albums you are likely to hear this year -- all the more considering the fact that it's a major label offering.
With The Moon and Antarctica, Modest Mouse have successfully followed in the footsteps of fellow Northwesterners Built to Spill and used the power and pull of a major label to reach the full potential of their artistic intent. Make no mistake: The Moon and Antarctica is rife with some of the most stirring and beautiful music available today on any label, be it a high-powered major or a struggling independent.