Modest Mouse, The Moon & Antarctica

If all the Moon and Antarctica have in common is being lifeless and difficult for humans to inhabit, then that's this album too. The low points begin early with "3rd Planet," a grimy disheveled mess obsessed with "f*cking people over" (possibly the listeners), but later on also the atonal, cacophanous "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes" and the interminable "The Stars are Projectors." There are flashes of talent: I liked the introspective "The Cold Part," though mostly for the musing harmonies and overdubs and not much else, the solemn if moronic "Gravity Rides Everything" with its Radiohead-style distortion, and the clever "Paper Thin Walls" which might have sprung fully formed from the head of David Byrne. A couple tracks like "Dark Center of the Universe" and "A Different City" even get up enough verve to groove to. Still, Isaac Brock's snarly navel-gazing is as tedious as the affected clang association lyrics, and the quality of the production doesn't generally match its erratic composition. The band nevertheless thinks more of it than it deserves, as evidenced by the 2004 reissue/remaster with four tracks as reworked for BBC Radio 1; though actually longer than the originals, they're tighter, and potentially proof this band's got something more to offer after all. (Content: F- and S-bombs, violent imagery on "Wild Packs of Family Dogs.")