Many Modest Mouse fans seemed to despise Tiny Cities the instant Mark Kozelek announced he was working on a full-length reinterpretation of Isaac Brock's fractured indie-rock. After all, Kozelek is the troubadour who made silk purses out of the sow's ears of Bon Scott-era AC/DC rockers and John Denver folk-pop. To approach Modest Mouse with the idea that the band's music could be improved was blasphemy. Did Kozelek consider Brock to be another cheesy '70s music act?
I won't lie to you: I don't get the Mouse and can't help feeling the band sounds like any other K Records act from the late '90s. Kozelek, on the other hand, sounds timeless; his music could have been produced anytime during the 20th century. With his current band, Sun Kil Moon, he polishes the Mouse's rough gems into majestic vistas. "Neverending Math Equation," for instance, no longer burps along like a gassy infant. Instead, Kozelek applies density and mass on an epic scale, his layered guitars propelling the neurotic lyrics forward like a fever dream. And "Jesus Christ Was an Only Child" becomes a genuine prayer, even as a string section tiptoes into the arrangement like the ghost rays of dawn.
"Space Travel Is Boring," however, approximates the style of Kozelek's early band, Red House Painters, which perhaps explains his urgency to tackle such an unusual project: Simply put, he finds literary companionship in this music. As a result, Mouse fans--at least those who don't consider Brock a divine being--will easily appreciate the imagination that now governs Tiny Cities.