The CoNtRaRiAn Universe of MoDeSt MoUse
Modest Mouse returns. A band that swells with age, catches carbon as it passes through time and becomes something new and old again. I listen again to quell my excitement and something happens: I become the vinyl record, being cut in the recording studio of my snapses. My facial imperfections tracklists, some more worn than others, and some, like the small crows feet around my eyes, skip. Some are overplayed, some stick and loop like a broken record that becomes my neurosis, my pet peeves, my triggers. I love them all. All thirty years of them.
Every full play of "The Lonesome Crowded West" calls up the psychic equivalent of a thirty year old dancers sore ankle from years of movement. It reminds me: the universe is contrarian and I, in my memories, am not there anymore, but these albums certainly were/are and they serve as the only proof that many of my memories exist at all.
Isaac Brock is not pretty enough to be Kurt Kobain, or fashionable and witty in press engagements to be a Bob Dylan. He is Isaac Brock and more soothsayer than either. He ages the way a zeitgeist should: slowly, confusingly, strangely in sputters over the course of decades.
He once said it was McCarthy's Blood Meridian that was his greatest influence while composing the songs on The Moon and Antartica. Unlike Dylan, you cannot see his bookshelf through his lyrics; his turns of phrases are more Yogi Berra meets James Joyce than some pale, sexless, coffee shop poet cracking his voice as he unveils his new metaphor for another platitude.
I was young when I first saw Modest Mouse. My eyes wide, cheeks not yet revealing the tree-ring jawline that'd give me away in a crowd of girls now. I was blown away. Through sheer volume, the set list blasted me into myself in a way that was too adult to comprehend, too innocent to laugh off as naive. The band was always there, alive, and they carried Johnny Marr as a vestigial limb. They had two drummers now because the one who left came back and in every lisped enunciation of lyrics, I could feel a collective history articulating itself. This would give me the language and the sound to articulate myself later, through mixtapes, through playlists while jogging through the cold Toronto streets, through nights alone with a boom box.
I had a sightless ability to skip to a certain song, to fast forward "Styrofoam Boots/It's all Nice on Ice, Alright," to that orgasmic ending drum breakdown that speeds up in a way that some "professor" worshiping drummer would never risk. No technique obsessed connoiseur could ever blast through the metronome and get unhinged enough to reach that point. Something about the way the snare snaps lo-fi in the right headphone, about the way the guitar strings oscillate between strumming and shaking, and about Brock's yells, a theme and variation of himself, the drums slowly panning to center and climaxing like a reckless abandon that can only stop from attrition, or lactic acid, that made it seem as if the rhythm itself no longer recognized the song anymore.
The pop perfection of “Ocean Breathes Salty,” the beauty of “The Stars are Projectors,” the hoe down of “Parting of The Sensory” the honest self awareness of “Talking Shit About a Pretty Sunset,” the upswing of “Black Cadillacs”, the sexiness of “Little Motel” and the Zeitgeist eating itself like a fruit in “Spitting Venom” As I type, these songs cover the sound of the keyboard and make me feel that I am being recorded upon, tracked like a record. And those clicks and pops, from years of collecting dust, wobble the turntable of modern life.
That I was wrong explains why I am still moving, and these records document that un-sexy aspect of the human condition. But Modest Mouse is still moving, to here, El Paso, and then forward. There is no collusion. The whole world is wrong, and when we are right, we can only be reminded. And I will be reminded Wednesday, of something.