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Modest Mouse

Modest Mouse


Not every Seattle based group made a killing during the early '90s Grunge era - at least not right away. Hailing from Issaquah, WA, due east of Seattle, Modest Mouse formed in '92 with Isaac Brock (vocals/guitar), Eric Judy (bass) and Jeremiah Green (drums).

A couple years later, following the circulation of numerous demos, Modest Mouse was signed by the indie K label with several singles resulting (these would later be repackaged). The group moved to the Up label for their full-length debut "This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About" and its follow-up "Lonesome Crowded West." Also in '97, they returned to the K label for "The Fruit That Ate Itself."

These albums built a modest Modest Mouse following but nothing that would eliminate their "also ran" status. It might have stayed that way had they not made a daring move for a well-respected indie band. They signed with a major label, Sony. "The Moon & Antarctica" came out in '00 with a compilation of earlier singles, "Building Nothing Out Of Something," also being released. But that wasn't all. K Records dug up the group's "lost" debut "Sad Happy Sucker." Amid all this action, Benjamin Weikel replaced Green. Modest Mouse continued on an upswing with '04 release "Good News For People Who Love Bad News," with the hit (Modern Rock Tracks) "Float On."




Occasionally, there are cross-generational pairings in Rock. Usually, it's a band working with their hero or inspiration. Sometimes it's at those overblown galas where musicians close the show with an all-star jam. These are nice but pretty meaningless - more an exercise in getting along than Rocking out. A more interesting collaboration was Jimmy Page's (Led Zeppelin) turn with Black Crowes at L.A.'s Greek Theatre (resulting in a live album). In a similar, but more involved vein, there's guitarist Johnny Marr joining Modest Mouse. Marr's reputation was built on his tenure with the legendary '80s band, The Smiths, a group that disbanded before Modest Mouse was hardly a glimmer.

Brock contacted Marr, whose work he'd long admired, about helping with the group's seventh studio album. As sometimes happens, a temporary collaboration turns into a partnership, and Marr was asked to join.

For being a new member, Marr had an immediate impact co-writing songs with Brock for "We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank." The set was originally slated for a December '06 release but came out in March, '07.

Despite the album's success there was an eight year hiatus between albums, the longest to date in the group's career. However, it wasn't because they had disbanded or were inactive.

Reworked unreleased tracks from "Good News For People Who Love Bad News" and "We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank," plus a couple new songs, "King Rat" and "I've Got It All (Most)," comprised the '09 EP "No One's First And You're Next."

In '11, there was word that Modest Mouse were working on their next album but the only two original songs surfaced, "Poison The Well" and "Lampshades On Fire."

They then contributed a cover of "That'll Be The Day" to the "Rave On Buddy Holly" compilation. Also in '12, Pitchfork.tv released a forty-five minute documentary, The Lonesome Crowded West, which included archival footage taken during live performances and original recording/mix sessions.

While the group continued to tour and play festivals, no album appeared until '15 when "Strangers To Ourselves" dropped, featuring the single "Lampshades On Fire."

Modest Mouse Discography

Albums:

1996 This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About (1996)
1997 The Lonesome Crowded West (1997)
2000 The Moon & Antarctica (2000)
2004 Good News For People Who Love Bad News
2007 We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank
2015 Strangers To Ourselves

Modest Mouse ply a sparse sound in often elongated songs. "The Moon & Antarctica," "Good News For People Who Love Bad News" and "We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank" are the most accessible back catalog albums. From "Moon" there's "Wild Packs Of Family Dogs," a humorously titled song that seems to be channeling Neil Young. "Good News" ventures darkly with "Dig Your Grave," the neo-Grunge "Bury Me With It" and "Satin In A Coffin."

Any fear that Modest Mouse would take a pop turn on "We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank" is unwarranted. The group is as eclectic as ever bouncing from Folk to Talking Heads style romps. Marr's guitar jangles, cuts and spits accenting Brock's expressive lyrical interpretations. There's no overtly mainstream ditty here, not even a "Float On." The closest they come is "We've Got Everything." And even then, Brock and Shins singer, James Mercer, likely by design, push it out of the conventional. Mercer is also heard on "Missed The Boat."

EPs are a great catchall for songs that fail, for one reason or another, to make an album. They can also turn a nice profit since with a little remixing or touch-ups, they are ready for sale to the long time faithful and, if one or two, of the band's previous full-length efforts has been a major commercial success, draw in the newly indoctrinated. The cleverly titled "No One's First And Your Next" works on both levels as an affirmation of the group's particular approach.

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