Isaac Brock's world is the dying West, still beautiful, but being logged and asphalted into oblivion as suburban sprawl breeds innumerable strip malls and Wal-Marts. He explored themes like this on Modest Mouse's brilliant album The Lonesome Crowded West, and on his first record with side-project/collaboration Ugly Casanova, he tries to take a much needed respite. As befits his backwoods trailer/redneck upbringing, he is now delving deeper into the alt-country sound he previously experimented with on the Modest Mouse song "3 Inch Horses, Two Faced Monsters" from the Everywhere and His Nasty Parlour Tricks EP. Ugly Casanova doesn't shed Brock's previous sound or influences, however: it's still quirky, spacey indie rock, just with a country twist.
Though I'm sure the combination has been used to describe other music, Ugly Casanova's is country filtered through a combination of psychedelics and downers. Isaac Brock loves his drugs, as he admits in many an interview and as his cryptic, introspective, and bizzare lyrics betray. Though Ugly Casanova's lyrics are rumored to be the work of a mysterious and likely insane fan of Modest Mouse, they sound exactly like Brock's earlier work, and in the album's liner notes, Brock himself uses the Ugly Casanova pseudonym.
The album kicks off with "Barnacles," opening with Modest Mouse's signature backwards guitar and percussion and drops the Stones reference, "I don't need to see I don't see / how you see out of your window / I don't need to see / I'll paint mine black." Countrified but familiar vocals from Issac Brock sing sometimes about relationships and sometimes about nothing as the music beeps, tweaks, and shuffles along.
Standout tracks include "Spilled Milk Factory's" manicly funky and bluesy drawl, "Cat Faces," the most emotionally touching (yes, touching) song on the record, "Ice on the Sheets," which adopts a sort of tribal groove and a deep bassline while alluding to "3 Inch Horses, Two Faced Monsters" with the re-use of the line "I was lookin' at an old photograph / it looked like we took it at gunpoint / so I had to laugh." "Pacifico" is a hungover tribute to a favorite alcohol. The closer, "So Long to the Holidays" sounds almost... epic, despite the fact that it only has one lyric.
Misfires (IMHO, of course) include the pointless and aptly titled interlude "(no song)," useless "Beesting," and underwrought but not terrible "Parasites," which features some pretty bad lyrics at times. All in all, this is a spectacular record.
Isaac Brock (Modest Mouse
) - lyrics (?), vox
, possibly other instruments, production
(Red Red Meat
) - drum
, effects, production
(Red Red Meat
) - lyrics (?), slide git
, vocals, keys, fiddle
(Black Heart Procession
) - vocals, gits, keys
) - vocals, lyrics (?), humpy sounds
Ted Stephens - clarinet
Tyler Riley - violin
Ugly Casanova - inspiration
, lyrics (?), all purpose pseudonym
- Barnacles - Isaac Brock, John Orth - 5:05
- Spilled Milk Factory - Isaac Brock, Tim Rutili - 4:26
- Parasites - Isaac Brock - 3:36
- Hotcha Girls - Isaac Brock, John Orth - 4:58
- (no song) - Isaac Brock - 0:26
- Diamonds on the Face of Evil - Isaac Brock - 3:16
- Cat Faces - Isaac Brock, John Orth - 3:36
- Ice on the Sheets - Isaac Brock - 6:33
- Beesting - Isaac Brock - 0:48
- Pacifico - Isaac Brock, Pall Jenkins - 2:31
- Smoke Like Ribbons - John Orth, Isaac Brock - 5:15
- Things I Don't Remember - Isaac Brock - 3:29
- So Long to the Holidays - Isaac Brock, Pall Jenkins - 5:56
Released by Sub Pop, May 2002