Friday, November 18, 2005

Sun Kil Moon / Tiny Cities / Rating 3.0

Listening to Mark Kozelek attempt a full album of Modest Mouse covers is like watching a man wrestle a grizzly bear: It's a challenge that falls somewhere between courageous and stupid.

Modest Mouse = Grizzly Bear
This makes the MM band name all the more ironic to me. Maybe the band Grizzly Bear would be willing to switch names?

PFM says: "Modest Mouse's music, more so than with many other bands, is nearly inseparable from the musicians themselves."

I understand a review is all about opinions that are by definition subjective but this kind of blanket statement reflects zero understanding of any basic band chemistry. The musicians are what make a band a band period. End of sentence. Even if one person is the primary songwriter, when talking about a full band, the line up is what makes the music go. Modest Mouse is a fine example of a well-oiled machine that works well but all it takes is one member change in any band to shift the chemistry in a whole new direction. A band is a structure that requires foundation beams, floors, walls, stairs, windows, and decorative accents... and all parts are equally important. Like the band or not this is how a band dynamic works. Maybe Modest Mouse has a stronger more effective or attractive structure than many other bands but that’s about as useless as saying Modest Mouse has better songs than most. Building a review from this mute point fails to pass any proper review building code.

I can also tell you there are many a MM fan who liked Jeremiah’s (drummer) replacement in Modest Mouse better.

PFM says: Suffice it to say, Kozelek gets mauled on Tiny Cities.

Was Mark sitting on Tiny Cities when the bear attack happened?

PFM says: "but his band only takes one or two musical elements from the Modest Mouse originals, so the songs sound pale and diminished compared to your memory of their source."

A tribute to a band doesn’t have to sound like the original. In fact part of the fun of covering a band is seeing what you can do with it; it's like knocking down a house but keeping the curtains and building something new around it.

Secondly what if you had no idea what Modest Mouse sounded like, do Kozelek’s covers still fall short as songs on their own. The original version of a song does not have to remotely play the role of a blueprint to the new version, again that is part of the charm of a cover. If I wanted to hear an exact MM song, I would throw on a MM record.

PFM says: "Their tasteful Americana is long on atmosphere but short on real dynamics: Most of these tracks sound more or less uniform, which is odd considering the variety of the Modest Mouse versions."

It’s a little strange that not once in this entire PFM review is there a mention of Kozelek’s previous themed tribute album that features front to back AC/DC covers. I HATE AC/DC and this Mark’s particular take on their songs had me spellbound from beginning to end. I should also mention that uniformity is also a strong key feature to What’s Next to the Moon as well.

PFM says: "Despite the stumbles, Kozelek does get a few good hits in before the bear devours him. "

Damn bears.

PFM says: "These tracks are botched experiments that can't even function as interesting failures."

I like the AC/DC tribute cd better but there are still quite a few songs on Tiny Cities I would absolutely call a success story. “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes”, “Dramamine”, and “Convenient Parking” all work with a fluidity few songwriters could translate out of a Modest Mouse song. I won’t tell you this tribute to MM is flawless but it isn’t shameful either.

On it’s way to being something good Tiny Cities earns a solid 6 by my cover standards.

PS: Beware of the bears and what ever you do, DON”T FEED THEM!!!