I have recently (re)discovered Modest Mouse’s album Building Nothing Out of Something. And I need to write about it. I’ve listened to it over and over again for the better part of a week now. In some sense, I’ve been looking for “that album” that’ll take me through the long dark of October from Summer to Winter, bring me to my birthday, and be a hallmark of memories.
But first, let’s just listen. Just listen.
This is one of those albums. In this era of iPod wearing hipsters eternally on shuffle who think in mp3’s instead of “albums,” this is one of those albums that reminds you of what it was like to listen to an album. Listen to the slow transition form “Medication” to “Workin’ on Leavin’ the Leavin’.” Or, better yet, try to feel how these songs need to be played together. How the later leads naturally from the former. How “the mayor’s machines are there cleaning the pavement/you can’t make dirt clean so we’ll just lemon-scent it” can only lead into “In heaven everything is fine/In heaven everything’s alright.” Not to mention the slow guitars. The gentle whining of guitars in the back with the street scene overlay fading into the slow burst of symbols of “Workin’ on Leavin’ the Livin’.” How else could you follow “I haven’t hung out with anyone/’Cause if I did, I’d have nothing to say” of “Whenever You Breath Out” but with “this is how it seems to be/other people’s lives seem more interesting cuz they ain’t mine” of “Other People’s Lives”?
That’s the thing. This is one of those albums that can only be described with that word “epic” but you hesitate to say “epic” because it sounds too cliche even though no one ever uses the word epic anymore. But that’s what it is and I’m going to stick with it.
Throughout the whole thing is this high pitched note, this constant reminder of something I’ve forgotten but never really knew to begin with. Like a memory of something that happened in a movie that you mistake for your own life. It’s a single guitar. Constant. Amid the chaos of everything else. And I can’t do it justice. You just need to listen to it.
And it’ll remind you of what it is to be young but old, of what it is to be committed to the life you’ve always led despite the fact that you’re getting older every day and you need to struggle to hold on to your idealism, to your naivete, to your youth and innocence, no matter how jaded and embittered it may have been from the get-go. Because no matter how jaded and embittered you have been from the get-go, you can really get it on. You can envy other people’s lives. You can breath out and know that someone else will breath in. And you know, god damn good and well, that the universe really is a never ending math equation.
And in the end, that’s an encouraging thought.