A Note on Modest Mouse

Modest Mouse is weird. This blue collar, rag tag tribe from the logging lands of the Pacific Northwest have manged to move from obscurity in the early 1990's to mainstream rock fame early in the 21st century.

The band is built steadily around two big pine trees: lead singer Issac Brock and bass player Jeremiah Green. Together, they explore sonic territory that few others have. Something about their sound is completely original. Immediately, you could tell is a song was penned by these guys in less than 10 seconds. It's hard to put a finger on what that uniqueness really is- is it a strung out guitar, a jumpy bass that seems unchained to the guitar chords? There's always something out of tune. Lots of space. Loud and quiet.

These songs are trying to climb to the stars, only to get up there to look below and document the human struggles on the ground. They meditate on the green, rainy,  hungover days. Brock's abstract lyrics often come to the forefront in these moments of odd musical beauty. Modest Mouse doesn't really write verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus songs. Instead, each one feels like it has multiple "movements". Green's bass is like a leaping salmon. Brock's guitar has ADD.

Some songs?

"Birds vs. Worms" is an early Modest Mouse tune. It nicely captures the sound they'd be chasing for years to come. A brief "intro electric guitar jam is joined by a bumbling bee of a baseline. The song gets wrapped in tight by the bass, allowing for Brock's weird musings on nature and animals as a metaphor for human relationships takes hold.

I don't like long, jam-band guitar songs. "Dramamine" technically is one. But all of it's layers make sense, and it is never self indulgent.

"Edit the Sad Parts": Brock wears his heart on his sleeve here. There are many musical movements in this song, with melodic guitars and beautiful bass found around every turn.

I'll post more MM sound later. I'm also reminded that I have yet to finish the "essential Cat Power" list!

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