After stepping up to the major-label plate with The Moon and Antarctica
, Modest Mouse reach back to their roots with Sad Sappy Sucker
is actually the band's first recording, released in 2001 but created back in 1994. It was shelved in favor of Lonesome Crowded West
as their debut, but Sucker
is still a fine piece of the Modest Mouse lineage.
Although parts of Sucker are experimental compared to the band's current polish, this isn't some rarity to be enjoyed only by collectors. Breezy melodies build into jagged choruses as singer Isaac Brock shows he can be both tender and playfully aggressive. Most of the songs clock in between two and three minutes, leaving room for numerous gems in the course of the 24-track album. While 12 of the songs come from a recording session with K Records' Calvin Johnson, a chunk of Sucker material comes from Brock's "Dial-a-Song" phase, during which callers heard new songs by dialing into his answering machine. These experiments range from lo-fi combos of distorted instruments and whiny vocals to complete songs, like the bluesy rock jam on "Secret Agent X-9." The Dial-a-Songs--and a message left by Murder City Devils front man Spencer Moody ("Call to Dial-a-Song")--are both comic relief and proof that Modest Mouse didn't gain their indie-rock cult status by accident. The talent's been there from the beginning. --Jennifer Maerz