From indie-rockers, Modest Mouse, comes the 7-minute powerhouse,

“Styrofoam Boots/It’s All Nice On Ice, Alright,” off their second album, The Lonesome Crowded West.  

There is nothing wrong with the use of auto tune these days, it can be used to create pitches that the human voice cannot reach and generate other-worldly effects.  But on “Styrofoam Boots,” lead singer, Isaac Brock, does something that auto tune just cannot replicate, the fragile breaking of a singer’s voice.

Brock’s vocals sound as if they were recorded in the corner of the studio with the microphones facing in the other direction.  This risky recording strategy pays dividends with the extremely intimate and emotionally staggering result, just a man and his guitar singing about his relationship with God.

Modest Mouse’s frontman’s voice quivers as he sings, “I’m in heaven trying to figure out which stack they’re going to stuff us atheists into when Peter and his monkey laugh. And I laugh with them.”  Brock starts by letting his listeners know that he puts no stock into the belief of God.  However, he is not proud of this, judging from the pain and sadness that is abundant in his voice.  It can be sensed that this stirs great turmoil within him.  Atheists are persecuted harshly for their beliefs.  Maybe he was a victim of this persecution and this is his way of dealing with all that strife.

“Well some guy comes in looking a bit like everyone I ever seen,… ‘Every time anyone gets on their knees to pray, well it makes my telephone ring,’… he said ‘you were right, no one’s running this whole thing.’… He said that god takes care of himself and you of you”  Is this man, God himself, coming to tell Brock that it’s all made up?  Prayer, heaven, everything?  The listener can tell Brock’s head is swimming with these ideas by the speed and frailty of his lyrics, only adding to the emotion of the track.

As the song reaches its middle point, a sudden drum kick begins, signaling a massive catharsis of loud percussion din and the repeat of the line, “it’s all nice on ice alright, and it’s not day and it’s not night, but it’s all nice on ice alright.”  Some believe that this is a reference to Brock’s methamphetamine addiction.  “Ice” referring to the drug itself, and believing that everything is “alright” when under the influence of the drug.  Heaven and God is an uncertain thing for many, but drugs are sometimes the only constant in a person’s life; the only escape from an otherwise pointless existence if there is no afterlife.

Modest Mouse’s “Styrofoam Boots/It’s All Nice On Ice, Alright” is the saddest song they have ever written, perhaps the saddest song ever written.  If not for its lyrics, but for its sincerity and intimacy, chills will surely ensue a click of the play button.

For more of Sam’s Soundtracks, check out a discussion of Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” right here.

The Hilights 

Album Title: “The Lonsesome Crowded West”

Release date: Nov. 8, 1997

Cost: $9.99

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

By Samuel Schiffer

I am a senior at Boone High School. My interests include being a senior at Boone High School, good music, and good movies.

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