The ocean breathes salty, won't you carry it in?
In your head, in your mouth, in your soul.
The more we move ahead the more we're stuck in rewind.
Well I don't mind. I don't mind. How the hell could I mind?
—"Ocean Breathes Salty", Good News For People Who Love Bad News.
Modest Mouse is a neo-classical emo folkabilly electro-acoustic hardcore soft pop rock band.
Now let's really
talk about them.
Formed in Issaquah, Washington State
by Isaac Brock, Jeremiah Green, and Eric Judy, they made a band. It's named for a story entitled "The Mark on the Wall"
. It goes:
"I wish I could hit upon a pleasant track of thought, a track indirectly reflecting credit upon myself, for those are the pleasantest thoughts, and very frequent even in the minds of modest, mouse-coloured people, who believe genuinely that they dislike to hear their own praises."
And there did it begin: their legacy of singing about metaphors so arcanely obtuse that you'd probably need a plum bob just to get your mind straight after a listen.
Their first album, This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About
, was praised for its mellow-cum-harsh acoustic melodies, along with lush instrumentation and an odd singing style (the latter of which would become the band's staple).
They made Interstate 8
and The Fruit that Ate Itself
before releasing their next full-length album, The Lonesome Crowded West
, which is universally lauded by critics but sold modestly at best.
Then came Night on the Sun
(another EP) and Building Nothing Out of Something
, a compilation album. Eventually came their most critically acclaimed album to date: The Moon & Antarctica
, a bleak
and sometimes scary
collection of mostly-instrumental melancholies. "Mostly instrumental" stems from the fact that Brock had had his mouth wired shut after his jaw was broken during recording. To say that their follow-up, Sad Sappy Sucker
, suffered Hype Backlash
is somewhat of an understatement.note
Then came Green's nervous breakdown. Afterwards, he decided quit the band to work on their own side project. Now without a main drummer, he enlisted the help of Benjamin Weikel, as well as a new guitarist (Dan Gallucci). And lo and behold was Good News For People Who Love Bad News
, which not only proved to be warmly received by the fans and critics (though not as much as The Moon & Antarctica)
, but was a commercial success as well; nearly half a year after its release, the band saw a surprise hit
with "Float On", their most optimistic song to date.
More good news
followed: Jeremiah Green returned,
and Johnny Marr
of The Smiths
replaced Dan Gallucci on guitar. Riding on their newfound (if still relatively small) popularity, they released We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
, conceived as an entirely nautical-themed
album. Much more similar in tone to Good News...
than their early work, its quality probably varies depending on who you're talking to.
Still, one of the more popular indie bands, they remain diverse and unique in style, outlook, and introspection.Albums:
- Blue Cadet-3, Do You Connect? (EP) (1994)
- This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About (1996)
- Interstate 8 (EP) (1996)
- The Fruit That Ate Itself (EP) (1997)
- The Lonesome Crowded West (1997)
- Night on the Sun (EP) (1999)
- Building Nothing Out of Something (Compilation) (2000)
- The Moon & Antarctica (2000)
- Sad Sappy Sucker (2001)
- Everywhere and His Nasty Parlour Tricks (EP) (2001)
- Good News for People Who Love Bad News (2004)
- Baron von Bullshit Rides Again (EP) (2004)
- We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank (2007)
- No One's First and You're Next (EP) (2009)
- Album Title Drop: Good News for People Who Love Bad News in "Bury Me With It". We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank in "We've Got Everything".
- Author Existence Failure: Work on the video for "King Rat" came to a halt when its director, Heath Ledger, suddenly died. It was finally finished and released nearly two years after his death, to coincide with the song's release on the No One's First and You're Next EP.
- Back to Front: The music video for "Little Motel"
- Black Sheep Hit: "Float On"; if not in sound, it's certainly far happier than their other songs. Quoth Brock:
It was a completely conscious thing. I was just kind of fed up with how bad shit had been going, and how dark everything was, with bad news coming from everywhere. Our president is just a fucking daily dose of bad news! Then you've got the well-intentioned scientists telling us that everything is fucked. I just want to feel good for a day.
- Call-and-Response Song: "Already we'll all float on..." "ALRIGHT!" "Already, we'll all float on..." "ALRIGHT!"
- Cool Old Guy: Steve Wold, the band's producer and erstwhile instrumentalist during their early years. In the mid-2000's, Wold would become popular in the United Kingdom after he released several blues-folk albums under the name Seasick Steve.
- Deadpan Snarker: The lyrics can occasionally devolve into this, especially considering it's snarking at the world itself.
- Driven to Suicide: It can be argued that the lyrics of "The Ocean Breathes Salty" are sung in anger to someone who had committed suicide.
- Epic Rocking: While their songs can range from standard pop length (about three minutes or so) to six-minutes, "Whenever You See Fit" (Modest Mouse's longest song at a little over fourteen minutes), "Trucker's Atlas," "The Stars Are Projectors," "Night On the Sun," and "Spitting Venom" are the most epic.
- Fading into the Next Song: Done in between "The World at Large" and "Float On" on Good News For People Who Love Bad News.
- Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Night On the Sun."
- He's Back: For Green in 2007; for the band itself, after a five-year hiatus, in 2004.
- Long Title: All of their albums and most of their EPs.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Wild Pack of Family Dogs," among others. Their songs are usually gentle rock songs with depressed lyrics.
- Motor Mouth: Brock in '"Steam Engenius" and "Guilty Cocker Spaniels." Holy crap, "Guilty Cocker Spaniels."
- Also on "3rd Planet" to some extent.
Well a third had just been made and we were swimming in the water, didn't know then was it a son was it a daughter when it occurred to me that the animals were swimming, around in the water in the oceans in our bodies and another had been found another ocean on the planet, given that our blood is just like the Atlantic, and how.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: All over the place! Their songs can get as low as 2 or 3 and as high as 7 or 8. Sometimes in the same freaking song!
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly
- New Sound Album: Good News For People Who Love Bad News
- No Export for You: Night On the Sun was originally released only in Japan. It was later sent via vinyl to the U.S. when the band signed with Epic Labels.
- Persecution Flip: The video for "King Rat".
- Playing Against Type: The band's well known for playing really cynical and bitter songs. Then came Float On, which is the polar opposite.
- They also had a minor follow-up hit with "Dashboard" from We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, which engages with similar themes.
Well, it could have been — should have been — worse than you would ever know
Yeah, the dashboard melted but we still have the radio...
- Recycled Lyrics: "I don't know, but I been told, you'll never die, and you'll never grow old..."
- "I'm on the road to God don't know, my brain's the burger and my heart's the charcoal"
- In "Tundra/Desert" - "I don't feel and that feels fine"; in "Truckers Atlas" - "I don't feel and it feels great"
- In "Out of Gas" - "Out of gas, Out of road, Out of car, I don't know how I'm going to go" and in "Other People's Lives" - "On the road, Out of road, Going out, Out of gas, Out of road, Out of car"
- They do this a lot, don't they?
- Shout-Out: To Eraserhead in their song Workin' on Leavin' the Livin'.
- They seem to be very fond of Tom Waits. They reference him in song titles, like "The Lounge (Closing Time)", or musically, like in "This Devil's Workday".
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Mostly on the cynical side.
- Song Style Shift: Several times in "March Into the Sea," wherein the style switches between soft rock and abrasive, scream-filled hard rock quite a few times.
- Happens several times within Spitting Venom, as well as at the end of Parting of the Sensory
- Steam Punk: The song Steam Engenius is from the point of view of a steam automaton.
- Studio Chatter: "What People are Made Of" begins with someone saying "what's up? Make love?" before the music kicks in.
- Also at the beginning of "The Good Times are Killing Me," during which the people in the studio were apparently goofing off.
- The Something Song: "The Whale Song."
- With Lyrics: "Sleepwalking", an adaptation of the Santo & Johnny instrumental "Sleep Walk".