Modest Mouse mania ahead (caution)

Photo by Alessio Michelini

Modest Mouse?s B-side EP No One’s First and You’re Next, released in August 2009, is not your usual ?scraping of the barrel? collection of discarded songs. The B-side, consisting of a short 33 minutes of play, is an avant-garde adventure through the murky and aggressively gripping mind of lead vocalist, composer and guitarist Isaac Brock.

It features unreleased tracks from Good News for People Who Love Bad News (2004) and We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (2007) which all bear the band?s trademark manic depressive upbeat yet downcast symphonies of indie rock; this original and dirty style, to which I am quite partial, should please fans and newcomers alike, but those desirous of something different from the band might be disappointed.

While the individual songs are well thought out the album as a whole is disjointed, bordering on schizophrenic. The tracks range from Autumn Beds? soft acoustic humming to the darkly spastic vocals of King Rat with no apparent connecting theme; although this seems to imply poor planning it allows the listener to feel the full force of Isaac Brock?s musical insanity.

Since their birth in 1993 Modest has grown from three core members to six adding to their cacophonous melodies. The increased size also enables them to make use of a wider range of instruments, often undervalued by mainstream musicians, to great effect. No One’s First and You’re Next employs instruments ranging from the trumpet (History Sticks to Your Feet) to the banjo (King Rat) adding to the carnivalistic air which becomes more prominent as the album progresses.

The late Heath Ledger directed, though did not finish before his death in 2008, the stunningly meaningful stop motion music video for King Rat adding to the groups collection of crazy yet artful video productions.

Modest Mouse, along with ?the greats? of underground such as The Pixies and Pavement, have shaped the alternative and indie scenes. There can be no doubt that the members of Modest Mouse have earned their large fan base. Like Thom York (Radiohead), Modest Mouse often appeals to both alternative and pop audiences; I would not recommend this particular album to those with pop or classical inclinations however. Instead I would suggest getting a feel for the band with their softer and less chaotic album We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank.

Sadly the recent sprouting of side projects, such as Brock?s Ugly Casanova, and the release of B-side tracks from their last two albums doesn?t bode well for the continuation of the band. If this is indeed their last release, they definitely went out with one hell of a bang.

Written by: Ben Coullie

Want to watch them live? They?re on tour.


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