If The Lonesome Crowded West is an album born of and fixated upon car culture, “Truckers Atlas” is the engine at the heart of it. Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock’s ultimate—and ultimately frustrated—vision of gasoline-fueled escapism, the track fires on all cylinders for upwards of ten minutes. Brock’s narrator here speeds back and forth across the country from Alaska to Florida, New York to Arizona, and finds nothing but emptiness and isolation in America’s open road promises. Jack Kerouac, take a seat and learn something.
Musically, “Truckers Atlas” gives us some of Modest Mouse’s most focused performances, each member of the band locking into rhythm as tightly as the Jaws of Life biting into twisted metal. Jeremiah Green lays down perhaps the most inspired beat of his life, a flurry of toms and snare and hi-hat (and that delectably placed chime on the bell of his ride cymbal) that provides the track with enough muscle to make Brock’s odometer abuse sound believable. If we could figure out a way to liquefy that beat and siphon it into our gas tanks, we’d all be set for life. Brock and Eric Judy hit upon riffs at once raw and smoothly danceable, displaying the mastery of syncopation so integral to the band’s sound. The composition is—all right, fine—a well-oiled machine, never faltering for a moment.