Back in the hazy Olympic days of 1996, a strange tune wandered through my car one day, courtesy of Album 88. "Traveling, swallowing dramamine" sang a voice, and then the song got gloriously messy with guitars. I made a point of learning the band's name, Modest Mouse, and months later succeeded in tracking down the album, which was a much harder thing to do in the pre-Amazon days, mind you. It was a solid album, and i played it for everyone i knew. I think to most of my friends, if you say "Modest Mouse", they will think of the Dramamine song before anything that may have been a hit a few years back. (Brendan's
Note: Actually, back when I was a wee Sponge, I had a fondness
which conveniently follows the afore-mentioned track.)
I lost touch with the band around 2000. No harm done -- bands wander in and out of my awareness all the time. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, i was hearing Modest Mouse played in stores. Huh? How did they manage to become popular? Moderately interested, i never tracked down that record.
Sometime last summer, Thomas Barnwell of The
Orphins remarked, in an offhanded sort of way, "Did you hear that Johnny Marr joined Modest Mouse?"
I peered at him skeptically over my beer, "What?"
"It's true," he enthused, "you can look it up on the NME site."
We then proceeded to talk about Mr. Marr and our general fandom of him, and later i found that Barnwell was, indeed, correct. Johnny Marr, one of my musical heroes, had joined this quirky band i liked back in the mid-90s.
How very odd.
Well, i had to hear the record, so i tracked it down in the early spring. And it has pretty much resided in my car stereo ever since. This is a wonderful pop record with complicated tunes that grow in layers, with odd instrumentation (horns, banjo, programmed thumping beats), and of course, Mr. Marr's chiming catchy guitar riffing.
There are so many enjoyable songs here:
- Dashboard, with singer Isaac Brock singing in an increasingly frantic
manner as the music thunders away behind him;
- Florida, with a catchy
sing along chorus;
- Parting of the Sensory, which starts slow and
then explodes into a hand-clapping, everyone-scream-along bridge,
before tearing into a banjo, mandolin, and guitar fury worthy of The Pogues;
in which Marr plays a guitar riff that echoes along like something
left over from Meat Is Murder;
- Spitting Venom,
which starts at a loping pace, gets louder, slows back down,
and gets even louder again, and then becomes laced with horns (?);
a raucous indie rock song with guitars that just trip over
each other in their race to be loudest;
But all of those tunes, good though they are, pale before Missed the Boat,
which is as perfect of a pop song as i have heard in years. It is unmistakably
Johnny Marr playing guitar, and the chorus is full of deep, belted harmonies.
This is a great one to sing along with in the car.
This is a great record. The songs are full of life and very sing-along-able. It is very enjoyable, and is one of the best pop records i have heard in a while.
Somewhere after i lost track of them, Modest Mouse became a very talented band. Good for them.