The Moon & Antarctica

The Moon & Antarctica

One of the most widely beloved indie rock albums of the 2000s—and of all time—Modest Mouse’s landmark third record The Moon & Antarctica is both a towering work of ambition, and a portal through which the Pacific Northwest legends transformed into one of modern rock’s most beloved acts to this day. At the time of its release in 2000, Isaac Brock and co.’s major-label debut was undoubtedly approached by some fans with trepidation, especially following the rough charms of 1997’s The Lonesome Crowded West, rightly considered a classic itself amongst the band’s growing number of acolytes. But, as Brock told the press, The Moon & Antarctica wasn’t intended to be a slick bid for mainstream success; in fact, he said, the members had spent their time in the studio looking for crazy new sounds. He wasn’t kidding: Recorded over the course of months—during which time Brock was hospitalized for a week after a violent assault, forcing his jaw to be wired shut—and co-produced by Chicago indie rock lifer Brian Deck, The Moon & Antarctica is a strange, sweeping record where disco grooves collide with acoustic junkyard chants and psychedelic guitar freak-outs. It’s the type of album that, even after hundreds of listens, still offers small details that take listeners by surprise. Little of Modest Mouse’s previous work suggested the scope on display here, from the moony-eyed warped pop of “Gravity Rides Everything” to the epic sway of “The Stars Are Projectors,” which itself switches between myriad sonic moods across its nearly nine-minute framework. Notions of alienation and distance certainly mark The Moon & Antarctica’s 15 songs, as they do through much of Modest Mouse’s celebrated catalog. But when anchored by late drummer and founding member Jeremiah Green’s furious kit-bashing, these existential missives on surveillance, self-loathing, and the dulled read of modern life feel absolutely vital and coursing through with hot blood. Unbelievably, Modest Mouse would go on to reach even greater heights when it came to pop music at large, but The Moon & Antarctica was definitive proof that the band members could do anything when it came to sonically stretching their wings beyond the weird world in which they started out.

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