Sunday, July 27, 2014
In praise of Modest Mouse
So, I'm going to see Modest Mouse in five days time. I've only been a fan for around 10 years and this will be the first time I have seen them perform live. This is the last band from my Top 10 that I am yet to see, so I'm excited to say the least.
When I found out about the tour, I was on the fence about whether I should go. None of my friends like the same kind of music as me, so I'll be going alone. It will take seven or eight hours out of my day for a 90-minute concert. It will also cost me over $100 for the day, and I am very cautious about spending money on things I don't absolutely need.
The other consideration was the likely set list. A month ago, all I wanted to hear were The Lonesome Crowded West and The Moon & Antarctica. Both albums are close to perfect and I have played them often since I first heard of the band. Initial efforts to get into their other albums largely failed. I remember being very disappointed with We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank when it was released.
After taking the plunge and buying the ticket, I decided to do my research and find out what was being played at the band's recent shows. I made a playlist of about 45 songs, took them to work, and played them every day for the past month.
A funny thing happened.
It turns out that there aren't just two great albums by Modest Mouse. Indeed, I find it almost impossible to narrow down their best tracks to a playlist under three hours. Weird, right? How could I have missed that the first time I listened to the other albums? Well, I think it's due to a few factors.
The songs are usually layered and complex, and too dense to take in casually. This is not pop, or a band that relies on hooks. However, when you really make the effort and dig deeper, all kinds of interesting things emerge. Like almost every vocalist I love, Isaac Brock can't really sing. It doesn't matter a bit. The lyrics are intelligent and thoughtful for the most part. What separates Modest Mouse from the pack is the way the oddly-shaped components work together. Some of the guitar work is up there with the best I have ever heard, but each instrument is important.
I think a lot of my friends think I am elitist or deliberately choosing weird things that I claim I get and they don't. That's not the case at all. I honestly couldn't give a damn about investing time and effort in things that I don't like, just so I can make that claim. I obsess about certain bands because I love the music. It alters my mood and makes me happy even when the rest of my day is going badly.
Why am I even bothering to write this post? Because I like to share the things I care about. That's the same reason I write about movies. I rarely review something I don't like.
I'm hoping that someone out there who initially dismissed Modest Mouse will revisit their discography and discover something amazing. I've already said that I find it almost impossible to pick out the band's best tracks, but I'll try:
This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About (74:03)
Long Drive is a 74-minute debut that is often raw, but ultimately rewarding. Probably not the best place to start, but a must-own once you get into Modest Mouse completely.
The Lonesome Crowded West (73:58)
Another 74-minute album, and you can see that I've listed almost every track. The songs are varied and incredible in different ways. This is the album that I most often think of as the band's best, but it's close when compared with...
The Moon & Antarctica (59:43)
Again, I've listed almost every track. This album actually flows better when you play it in its entirety, rather than cherry picking the best tracks (which is almost impossible anyway).
Good News for People Who Love Bad News (48:50)
I wasn't overly impressed with this album the first time I heard it, but that was a mistake. Like their debut, Long Drive, this is an album that works better after several listens. I love it now.
We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (62:33)
I could easily have listed the whole album. I think I was put off by some of the more polished and accessible tracks on the first few listens, but I am now of the opinion that it doesn't have many weaknesses. I certainly wouldn't skip a track. Parting of the Sensory, Steam Engenius and Spitting Venom are all incredible.
Building Nothing Out of Something (55:24)
It says a lot about a band when a compilation of B sides and songs dropped from other albums still includes songs you wouldn't want to be without. You would hardly know that this is a collection of oddities, because it works pretty well as a whole.
Interstate 8 (55:22)
If you don't own Interstate 8, it will set you back close to $200 new or $100 used. It's raw, and partially live. You can find most of the tracks on other releases, but it's fantastic when you are in the right mood.
No One's First and You're Next (33:33)
Here's an EP that's definitely worth checking out. The Whale Song is unmissable.
Baron von Bullshit Rides Again (46:28)
If you like alternative rock and have never fully investigated Modest Mouse, I urge you to do so. You might discover that this music will rank among the best you have ever heard.