Every once in a while, in an effort to appear cutting-edge and daring, major record labels fall all over themselves trying to sign volatile, prolific, inconsistent, willfully uncommercial bands to long-term record deals. The trend dates back decades, but as Royal Trux will tell you, the results can fail miserably. That, of course, didn't stop Epic from sinking serious cash into Modest Mouse, which has spent its career dogged by rumors, rap sheets, and creative inconsistency. Just in case fans were worried that the big time would smooth out the edges of the group's brash, jerky sound, The Moon & Antarctica may be its weirdest record yet. A sort of concept album about cold and distant places—creepy sound effects and odd nods to science and space abound—these 15 songs rarely settle into one place for long, opening with the characteristically potent "3rd Planet" before veering off into weird cacophony, jarring interludes, mellow meanderings, and general tunelessness. What holds it all together, as always, is a strange sort of precision, lending lurching power to the strongest material, but The Moon & Antarctica's best moment may be its most amorphous. The album's nine-minute centerpiece, "The Stars Are Projectors," gets stranger and further removed from conventional rock arrangement as it goes along, incorporating swirling effects, stirring strings, and sweet acoustic guitar lines. It's the furthest thing from pop, and will likely be greeted with the furthest thing from pop success, but it sums up everything about Modest Mouse's exasperating, periodically brilliant racket.