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Ugly Casanova: Sharpen Your Teeth

Though Ugly Casanova is widely viewed as Isaac Brock's solo project, the Modest Mouse leader actually uses the group to work with different players rather than experimenting alone. Sharpen Your Teeth seamlessly combines Brock's strengths with those of Califone's Brian Deck and Tim Rutili, creating a cross between its players' main bands. Brock's songwriting is chief among those strengths: Beneath his veneer of weirdness lies an imaginative and driven lyricist who's sometimes willing to lend traditional structure to his ideas, but more often shakes them up in pursuit of something greater. With Modest Mouse, he's clearly captain of a sturdy, crafted vessel: The group's emotional sonic experimentation is built to appear breakable, but it's undeniably solid. Sharpen Your Teeth finds Brock on a more rickety ship, weather-beaten but better for it. The clanky, Califone-y "Spilled Milk Factory" and "Diamonds On The Face Of Evil" both teeter desperately, all the better suited to Brock's dark and witty musings. Of course, ignoring the similarities between Modest Mouse and Ugly Casanova would be pointless and impossible, as several songs here (particularly the awesome opening track "Barnacles" and "Things I Don't Remember") could very well be Mouse outtakes. But combined with Sharpen Your Teeth's stranger moments, like the Residents homage "Beesting," the gently resigned "Hotcha Girls," and the swirly "So Long To The Holidays," they make for a stunning and surprisingly cohesive whole. Neither Modest Mouse Redux nor off-putting side-project indulgence, Sharpen Your Teeth is a small but effective stretch for a songwriter with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of great ideas.


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