Mouse on Mars – Live 04

Mouse on Mars
Live 04

Having never really listened much to Mouse on Mars, I can’t tell you how the live versions of the nine songs from Live 04 differ from the band’s album counterparts. And having never been much of a fan of live albums, that might or might not be a good thing. I have never found that listening to concert recordings of bands performing their songs exactly as they appear on studio albums is as enjoyable as listening to the originals. If the concert had a special energy, or if the band changed up the way it performed their songs, then I can see the merit.

That said, I have a feeling that Live 04 does give Mouse on Mars a chance to show the world that its live sound is not an exact (or necessarily inferior) take on its studio sound. Credit the band for not sounding sterile, because when you’re playing along to electronically pre-recorded backing and samples, the temptation to stick exactly to those sounds and rhythms can be hard to overcome.

The first few songs on Live 04 sound rather ordinary, like dance music from the late 90s or early 2000s (which is probably the case). The first breakout song that really captures the Mouse on Mars live experience seems to be “Distroia,” which begins with some glitchy noise bleeps before its acoustic drums take over the sound. Much like the Young Gods, Grotus, and Meat Beat Manifesto, the band knows how powerful it can be to marry electronic music with live drums (rather than relying always on the electronic, manufactured beats). “Distroia” uses both acoustic and electronic percussion, and it works really well. But the real key to this song is its hook, its simple distorted melody that rides on top of the rhythmic momentum. It really sticks in your head.

After “Distroia,” “Twift” sounded anemic. Its fairly predictable beats and frothy seqeuencer patterns seemed to lack energy and inspiration. Nice to dance to, maybe, but rather indistinguishable from a lot of other bands’ music. Being that “Twift” is originally from 1997, it could be that Mouse on Mars was doing this kind of thing first, but still… “Gogonal,” too, sounds dated and pedestrian composition-wise to me, but I’m admittedly not a student of electronica. “Wipe That Sound,” much like album opener “Mine is in Yours,” lays down the funk. While “Mine” uses the keyboard’s backing chords and melodic bubbles to produce interesting polyrhythms in the sound, “Wipe That Sound” seems to lumber a little too ponderously.

“Actionist Respoke” shows an experimentalism that Mouse on Mars has become known for. Its Chemical Brothers-like feel gets a kaledioscopic treatment by way of the odd noises and blurts that punctuate it. The songs builds to a climactic ending whose energy is diffused immediately by the opening of album finisher “Frosch.” The initial ambience of “Frosch” makes it seem like an unlikely choice for a live album slot (given the dance-heavy energy of the other tracks), but once the Kraftwerkian beats kick in, everything seems right. Its nine minutes of Autobahn travelling music feel like an appropriate ending to Live 04.

Fans of Mouse on Mars should give Live 04 a chance, as its live spirit and energy do give these cuts something extra not typically found in tightly controlled recording environments. Non-fans should at least hear “Distroia” before they decide that Mouse on Mars isn’t for them.