There are many surprising elements to Modest Mouse’s recent success (a number 1 album in America no less), but an hour an half in their company makes it no easier to disentangle the reasons for it.
With an audience that looks, on average, about fifteen years younger than the band members, the sudden mass appeal of their dense lyrics, cluttered arrangements and intense, verging on overwrought, performance is simply, baffling.
Indeed, Modest Mouse seemed to be the exclusive domain of U.S. college students and fellow musicians, destined to release numerous albums on indie labels before throwing in the towel in the face of overwhelming public apathy. Why them, rather than Guided by Voices or Superchunk, have endured and propsered is part of the mystery.
They have a level of technical ability that is, of course, laudable. With two drummers and two amazing guitarists (as a musician, Brock does not always play second fiddle to Johnny Marr, though the latter seems to have been elevated to almost co-frontman status) it is hard not to feel that the end result should be much greater than the sum of the parts.
The words are largely indecipherable, and with the exception of the singles, ‘Float On’ and ‘Fire It Up’ and the opening salvo of ‘Paper Thin Walls’ there is little in the way of memorable tunes, only some occasionally wonderful guitar motifs from Marr.
If it means that Modest Mouse have succeeded without compromise, then credit is due, but to do it in a manner that is at once largely soulless, faceless and humourless makes for a show that easy to appreciate but impossible to love.