Musicians grow. Over the course of a decade and a half, the Beach Boys' thematic arc took them from cars and surfing to spiritual chanting and nature imagery. The Pixies went from incest to science fiction in four albums; more recently, a band like Unwound released a fucking brilliant double album of stunning prog-rock out of absolutely nowhere. Change keeps things interesting; it keeps ideas moving and notes flowing and us listening.
From the vast and open terrain of "This Is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About," Modest Mouse have funneled their soundtrack to American desperation into a more focused look at the way human feelings can bloom and survive in an endless universe exploring the infinite, or at least the way hugeness and huge emptiness fuck people up. There's nothing quiet and sad about Isaac Brock's desperation; it's an angry, defiant kind of desperation. It counters its inherent futility with an elegant violence that, if Brock got his wish, would leave you shaking and hurt.
Much of Modest Mouse's music has a destructive edge, whether self-destruction or a more outwardly directed viciousness. It's evident on this eight-song grab-bag of an EP that collects the four tracks from last year's "Night on the Sun" EP and throws in a few new things, for good measure. "Everywhere..." is a satisfying dessert to The Moon and Antarctica, a curious postscript to the best letter Modest Mouse have written yet in their eight-year career.
Brock's anger finds a focus, musically, in "Night on the Sun" and, lyrically, in "You're the Good Things," the CD's two strongest offerings and also the most evocative of his rough philosophy. The former is an expansive epic of building guitars and hopeless rumination: "There's one thing to know about this earth, we're put here just to make more dirt," Brock shouts like some kind of enraged cheerleader, adding at the end, "and that's OK." Because, you know, it is OK. Once mortality is confronted, maybe we can begin to focus on more important stuff. "You're the Good Things" might be one of the more upbeat melodies the band has written in a few years, though its raved-up peppiness doesn't make the words sting any less: "You're the icing on the cake on the table at my wake."
"Here It Comes" is another upbeat affair with moderately depressing themes; "So Much Beauty in Dirt" has a powerfully suggestive lyric, despite being so short that it seems like an afterthought. "The Air," a spiffy little remix job, incorporates quotes and snippets from "Antarctica" into a dark and claustrophobically empty soundscape. Tacked onto the end of the disc, for no good reason, is a version of "I Came as a Rat" that's indistinguishable from the album version, and hence pretty unnecessary. A good song, but an unimportant inclusion. Still, there's enough on this disc to justify buying it (I mean, it's longer than the entire last Weezer CD, and it's not even a proper album).
Brock has shifted from a shouting kid to a drifter to a disillusioned adult dealing with disillusioning adult things, and the music reflects this maturity. "Everywhere..." is another notch on Modest Mouse's growth chart, a chart that seems to have no end in sight.