modest mouse and the rise of rodent rock
By biconews On 8 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Burke Nagy

Modest mouse, huh? Like anyone’s ever heard of an imposing mouse or an impudent mouse? These guys must have a thing for prolixity. Either that, or they’re bent on projecting a diminutive posture similar to that of such an unassuming, lovable, furry little creature - just to ensure that no one gets the idea that modest mouse is a bunch of pompous, grandiose rock stars. But, then again, mice can he kind of pesky at times.

One listens to the music of modest mouse, and it’s clear that they’ve also got a thing for that waggish, slightly off-kilter sort of indie slack-rock. Locate its mood somewhere between feel-woeful and feel-screwy and mark its tone as alternating between dulcet and strident, often within the space of a single song. Infuse these affections with a strain of pop charm and lyrical persiflage, and modest mouse is one of those bands that is just quirky, innovative and magnetic enough to be hip.

Hailing from Issaquah, Washington, modest mouse has been around since 1994, has released an impressive amount of material on the K, Up, and Sub Pop labels and has managed to attract a surge of loyal followers in the Northwest. Their latest release, building nothing out of something, co-released on Up, Sub Pop, and Suicide Squeeze, is a collection of tracks lifted from six of the band’s previous endeavors over the past four years. The selected songs comprise an opportune survey of modest mouse and the sound that has brought them thus far, considering that their next album, slotted to be released on Epic Records, is likely to represent a major shift in the band’s development.

The main elements of the modest mouse sound are a warm and well-blended, though occasionally chortled, guitar tone, lumbering rhythms and a vocal croon that would be unobtrusive were it not for a subtle tinge of angst. It is difficult, in fact, to pin down the group’s unique character just because these elements are so elliptical. Their combination, however, tends to produce a mellifluous sway with a basal spunk.

There are a few stand-outs on building: the cacophonous climax of “interstate 8,” the post-grunge nod in “never ending math equation” and, of course, the pick-me-up groove and jubilance of “all night diner.” The torpidity and minimalism of tracks like “baby blue sedan” and “whenever you breathe out, I breathe in (positive negative)” leave something to be desired, although “medication” features background sound effects like traffic and chirping birds before it breaks into a folksy rock saunter. Most of the lyrics consist of either drivel or tongue-in-check utterances, as singer Isaac Brock seems both to realize and to evidence in lines like “sometimes i’m so full of shit that it should be a crime.”

There is much more to modest mouse than can be gleaned from building nothing out of something, but as it stands, this collection of songs serves to please any listener inclined towards the comeuppance of the laid-back.

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