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January 16

Modest Mouse

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"I wish I could hit upon a pleasant track of thought, a track indirectly reflecting credit upon myself, for those are the pleasantest thoughts, and very frequent even in the minds of modest, mouse-coloured people, who believe genuinely that they dislike to hear their own praises." - Virginia Woolf The above quote is from the story "The Mark on the Wall" by Virginia Woolf and is the inspiration behind the band name Modest Mouse. Isaac Brock (vocals//guitar), Eric Judy (bass), Jeremiah Green (drums), Joe Plummer (percussionist), Tom Peloso (multi-talented) and Jim Fairchild (second guitar) make up this prime example of perfect mid-'90s indie music. Brock chose the name at 15 -- "I wanted something that was completely ambiguous, but it's really candyesque sounding. But it meant something to me. And I could identify with that." They are one of those defining bands; when you meet someone new and you're discussing music -- Modest Mouse is one of those givens that can usually confirm that the two of you are on the same general page. The music is somewhat of an acquired taste, a mix of hard and soft, sometimes melodic sometimes filled with angsty screams. There is a power behind the music that makes it hard to get out of your head. Brock's voice is gravelly and entirely unique -- part pirate, part hobo it's something you'll likely either love or hate. Dashboard from We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank Paper Thin Walls from The Moon and Antartica They fall under a slew of genres: indie rock, folk, low-fi, experimental...but all that's necessary to know is the umbrella term of awesome. The boys spent a decade as underground rock gods until the mainstream started paying attention in 2003 with the release of Good News for People Who Love Bad News, which went platinum and was nominated for a Grammy award. There were two hits off the record - Float On and The Ocean Breathes Salty. And on top of all the mainstream critical and public acclaim, they have hipster cred out the wazoo. They've gone through three guitarists, one of which was Johnny Marr former guitarist for The Smiths. Heath Ledger, Hollywood's lost too soon favorite son, directed the music video for the song King Rat. They've worked with Big Boi from Outkast. They've toured with other underground sensations Cake, De La Soul and The Flaming Lips. And they've performed at cool kid meccas Coachella and Bonnaroo. Float On from Good News for People Who Love Bad News Ocean Breathes Salty from Good News for People Who Love Bad News King Rat video directed by Heath Ledger They're definitely an indie style band but have some deeply rooted punk rock sensibilities. Judy and Brock met as teenagers in a suburb of Washington state -- Judy stopped into a video store and "saw this kid with long hair wearing a T-shirt of a punk band [Jawbox]. I thought, 'Here's someone I should talk to.' " The conversation probably didn't go as he'd expected though -- Judy was sporting an Econochrist and Brock insistently broke the ice between the two of them and informed him matter of factly that the Econochrist in fact sucked. Somehow though, they instantly hit it off and have been together ever since. With Brock as the anchor of the band, having kept them together for almost 20 years, he is the picture of stability...until he isn't. At least from an outside perspective. He is one for punk rock shenanigans -- like the concert in 2007 when he whipped out a large knife on stage and proceeded to cut open his t-shirt and chest, drawing blood for the crowd. He explains that he had lost his voice and was using whiskey to loosen up his vocal chords, and just got a little too excited essentially. "I was having a good time, it was not a cry for help - [the cut] was really superficial...I'm not going off the deep end" he says. There were also those date rape allegations in the late '90s. And that one time he spent a week and a half in jail for attempted murder, but that's a story for another day. Gravity Rides Everything from The Moon and Antartica Spitting Venom from We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank [unofficial video] Modest Mouse is the perfect Pacific Northwest band. Punk rock ideals with gushy inners, they create fundamentally interesting music with smart, cynical lyrics. The passion runs deep and the topics range from God to booze to inherent loneliness in almost Bukowski fashion (funnily enough after typing this sentence and scrolling through my iPod to see which songs I wanted to include in this post one of the first songs listed was actually called Bukowski.) The AV Club perfectly describes the vibe as "an uplifting downer," a disquieting and haunting tone pervades their music and it's been reassuring to watch as they've transitioned from underground to mega-mainstream that the extra money and attention really hasn't changed them at all. Their "sonic expansion" actually resulted in their strangest sounding album ever, The Moon and Antartica, with remastered layers of sound. And that was back in 2000. Their most recent album, 2007's Good News for People Who Love Bad News, took a bit of a more upbeat turn featuring an "adventurous stab at a sunny side." But for the past 5 years we've all been left wanting more. When asked in 2010 if there was a new album in the works Brock commented, "Uh, we’re writing, yes, but really slow. We mainly get together and end up hanging out, and half the time nothing get’s done. So uh, 90% of the time nothing really gets done. So, six months, which is unrealistic, we have no idea." We have our fingers crossed that the 10% productivity over the past two years will result in something soon! Bukowski from Good News for People Who Love Bad News [unofficial video] World at Large from Good News for People Who Love Bad News
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