Ugly Cassanova
Sharpen Your Teeth


On paper, it seems like Isaac Brock's real band, Modest Mouse, has been very prolific over the past two years with four releases to their credit: the albums "Building Nothing Out of Something", "The Moon and Antarctica", and "Sad Sappy Sucker", plus the 8 song EP, "Everywhere and His Nasty Parlour Tricks". In reality, however, only one of these ("Moon") was a proper release; the other three are bits of leftovers from as far back as 1994 that have been cobbled together from out of print EPs, 7 inches, and unreleased material ("Everywhere", their most recent release, consisted of little more than outtakes and alternate versions from the "Moon" sessions).

I had hoped, then, that since Isaac Brock hasn't really written anything new since 1999, his Ugly Cassanova solo project would be a fairly compelling release. And it's not bad, especially if you're a Modest Mouse freak like I am, but it's also easy to see why he didn't want these songs to be part of the Modest Mouse official canon. In many ways, this feels like just another b-sides release, which in a way it is—these songs weren't even good enough to make the first cut of songs that would be recorded by the band, much less the final cut of songs that would appear on a formal album. Several of the songs—"Barnacles", "Parasites", and "Things I Don't Remember"—would have been perfectly at home on one of Modest Mouse's many leftover releases (and are therefore the songs most likely to be immediately loved by Brock's longtime fans).

There are lots of interesting experiments, however, and in retrospect that was probably the point. This record allows Brock to stretch his wings a little bit and try some things that he would not necessarily feel comfortable doing with Modest Mouse. "Spilled Milk Factory" has distorted blues licks wailing in the background, assorted clinks and rattles that haunt the edges of the music, and at least 10 competing vocal tracks that all combine to form a oddly hypnotizing bad dream of a song. The percussion for "Diamonds on the Face of Evil" seems to have been generated entirely by a hard-working chain gang, while "Ice on the Sheets" sounds like a collaboration between a deranged computer and a bongo player who is stoned out of his gourd. "Hotcha Girls", "Cat Faces", and "Smoke Like Ribbons" are all quietly gentle takes on folk/country music that are almost more beautiful because of the Brock's quirky warping of those genres. "Beesting" is just plain weird.

This isn't really a bad album, and like most of Brock's material, it gets better with repeated listenings as the subtleties in the songwriting become more apparent. But after two years of half-hearted releases that feature almost no new material, I think most of us were hoping that "Sharpen Your Teeth" would be an unofficial Modest Mouse release, especially because there doesn't seem to be one forthcoming. So if you're jonesing for a Modest Mouse fix, this will have to do for now. But it you're unfamiliar with Brock's previous work, do yourself a favor and pick up "The Moon and Antartica" or "The Lonesome Crowded West", which features some of his best songs with Modest Mouse.

Chris Pace

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