Modest Mouse’s The Moon & Antarctica (2000)

The Moon & Antarctica

Album: The Moon & Antarctica
Artist: Modest Mouse
Year: 2000
Reason Featured: #49 on The Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop Poll for 2000, #3 Album for Pitchfork’s Top Twenty Albums of 2000
My Favorite Songs: Gravity Rides Everything, Perfect Disguise, Tiny Cities Made of Ashes, Paper Thin Walls
Their Grades: Rolling Stone (3.5/5), NME (7/10), Pitchfork (9.8/10), Robert Christgau (A-)
My Grade: 85%

For all its spaciness, The Moon & Antarctica is primarily a record about what it means to be alive on the third planet. The album’s title may come from a newspaper headline in Blade Runner but it also works as a reference to two of the most foreign territories which influence the earth. The moon controls the tides and Antarctica possesses a pole which keeps the world turning on its magnetic axis, just as Isaac Brock is fond of writing music which crashes like waves, chock full of repetitive, rotating guitar riffs.

I’ve always had a hard time connecting with Modest Mouse but can easily see why other people get them more than me. The lyrics contained here are abstract but rootsy, trafficking in the kinds of questions which get philosophers’ eyes to open every morning. The stuff on here isn’t as angular as the songs on The Lonesome Crowded West, nor is it as accessible as what would come on Good News for People Who Love Bad News and We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. But Brock’s depth as a songwriter is hinted at here in spades, capable as he is of writing a mournful ballad like “Perfect Disguise,” an apocalyptic funk groove like “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes” and a super-fun indie rock song like “Paper Thin Walls” over the course of the same record.

Their originality is always impressive, even if it’s never been quite the coffee I drink to kickstart my morning. It’s the same with The Moon & Antarctica as it’s been for me with all their other records. There are some songs here I love to immerse myself in but I’m just as fine being outside their ocean.

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