Though the album title sounds like it was borrowed from the avant-weirdos Liars, WE WERE DEAD BEFORE THE SHIP EVEN SANK finds quintessential indie-rockers Modest Mouse charting a course down the stylistic middle. They retain enough of their trademark quirkiness to keep longtime fans from feeling alienated, but they simultaneously put popwise songcraft to the fore. The dance-rock of "Dashboard" sounds like it could be a Killers outtake, and several tracks find the band engaging in the kind of post-Pavement mid-fi style that first endeared them to the slacker masses. Isaac Brock sounds properly unhinged on "Florida," "Invisible," and "Steam Engenius," as the band pushes into overdrive, but there's also a brace of low-key, acoustic-based tunes that provide a perfect contrast. The Mouse is bolstered by some high-powered guests as well: Smiths guitar legend Johnny Marr adds a bit of six-string support, and Shins singer James Mercer contributes some backing vocals. Nevertheless, the fraying-but-fierce group dynamic that's always been at the heart of the MM sound prevails throughout.