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Mouse Fire-Wooden Teeth Lujo Records

March 1, 2008

Mouse Fire — Wooden Teeth

Lujo Records

Multi-layered indie-rock propelled by dancey drumbeats and cascading guitar lines.

The first reaction I had when I read the description of Mouse Fire’s music was, “I hope this isn’t another under-talented band trying to snatch their piece of the emergent dance-rock pie.” Popping in Wooden Teeth, I was pleasantly surprised to hear a beautifully produced, complexity-laden indie-rock band that paid dutiful deference to dance-rock drumming.

Mouse Fire immediately reminded me of two of my favorite bands; ironically, their names can be combined to form Mouse Fire. The two bands I’m referring to are Modest Mouse and Fire When Ready, hence the combination: Modest {Mouse Fire} When Ready. The dancey-experimental elements of Mouse Fire’s tunes reminded me most of Modest Mouse, while the guitar tones achieved by Joey Bruce and Shane Schuch are virtual recreations of the ones Fire When Ready blows my mind with. Whether or not this was Mouse Fire’s intent is ultimately irrelevant; Wooden Teeth defends their musical individuality with a willingness to tinker with interspersed experimental elements and ear-catching guitar tones, immaculate production and downright catchy songs.

The twelve songs on Wooden Teeth maintain a connectivity—solidified by Aaron Vernick’s consistently creative and infectious dance beats—that separates this album from the usually formless mass of first albums. These songs are polished, and, as does Mouse Fire, I have to give credit to Jeremy Griffith for a lush yet precise production usually unheard of on a first release.

The opening song on Wooden Teeth, “Culvaria,” begins with distorted drums low in the mix panned hard to the right and vocals run through a pleasantly restrictive effects processing, before a rising bass line tumbles the tune into a mellow groove underscored by fill-stippled, clean drums. The chorus follows shortly—“And everyone’s got their own two eyes / and why can’t they use them… use them? / And everyone’s got their own mouth, so why can’t they use it… use…?”— summarizing the song’s tale of relational tension.

Wooden Teeth hovers thematically around the disconnects between lovers and friends. At times Mouse Fire’s songs hypothetically pose solutions—as does “Culvaria”; other times they lay blame for relational dysfunction, as in “You Started a Fire,” the chorus of which cries, “You started a fire, and you can’t put it out!” On “Friendship,” Mouse Fire compiles a laundry list of personal misfires, but the chorus is hopeful, pointing out that “Hey! We’ll be friends forever just like we were / Over and over.” The guitar tones throughout this powerful and catchy chorus are spot-on, achingly bouncy and ringing from sustain pedals. I like listening to a band that can dissect relationships in song without sacrificing musical integrity.

I guess the truest test of any album is long-term listenability, and Wooden Teeth, at least in the month I’ve been listening to it, hasn’t yet begun to wear on me. That’s more than promising, especially considering the modern music-listener’s A.D.D. when it comes to new music. In the rush to catch the new wave—to borrow an Against Me! phrase—we often leave great albums and artists behind after a listen; Wooden Teeth is packed with enough listenability to avoid this trap. Simply put, it sticks with you.

—Timothy C. Avery

Email: the_kitchen_sinks@yahoo.com

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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