Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Artist of the Day: Modest Mouse

With my hometown Tigers' recent exit from the World Series, I began to remember the last time they had failed to capture the world title in 2006. For some reason, the only thing I could remember about the series was the theme song: "Float On" by Modest Mouse. The uncharacteristically upbeat ode to taking things as they come sparked my idle interest in one of the most interesting rock bands I've heard. After catching their single from We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, "Dashboard," I was hooked. Fast forward to present day and Modest Mouse still holds up well, despite not having released an album since 2007.

The main reasons for their success are Isaac Brock's lyrics and Jeremiah Green's incredible drumming but it's also their ability to change styles at the drop of a hat and not seem to miss a beat. When Brock decided the band needed a new direction after 2004's Good News For People Who Love Bad News, they added three new members and made everything work as if there had been no change. However, it's as a trio that the band made the most noise. "Teeth Like God's Shoeshine," the raucous opening to masterpiece The Lonesome, Crowded West, begins with Brock yelling over Green's cymbal crashes and his own powerful chords only for it to stop into a digression about "the man with teeth like God's shoeshine." Repeat the process a few times over and you have one of the least appealing yet brilliant 7 minutes of music ever put to wax. Compared to the comparative purity of "3rd Planet," opener to their previous effort, The Moon and Antarctica, it's a shock that it's the same band; just another example of Isaac Brock's unique brand of genius. 

There's nothing inherently appealing about the band. Brock sounds as if he's tone deaf and has the vocal range of Eddie Vedder. The lyrics are weird, profane and often nonsensical. All the instruments sound like they're too loud and were recorded together with no regards to mixing. Yet, when you put their records on, everything seems to fall into place to form a beautiful cacophony. It may not sound great at first, but the grittiness of the recording and even Brock's vocals will sound good with time- if not immediately. 


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