Distinguished rock group Modest Mouse stops for a show in South Bend
Ethan Utley | Monday, September 24, 2018
On Monday night, alternative rock band Modest Mouse will perform at the Morris Performing Arts Center in downtown South Bend. They are a unique success story in the new millennium of rock. Isaac Brock (lead vocalist and guitarist) formed the band with Jeremiah Green (percussionist) and Eric Judy (bassist) in 1993, in his mother’s trailer home.
Originally from Seattle, the band is now based in Portland, Oregon. Their first album, titled “This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About,” didn’t release until 1996, and gathered a small cult following at best. It was not until 2004, seven releases later, when Modest Mouse broke into the mainstream rock scene. “Good News for People Who Love Bad News” went platinum, and included now widely known songs like “Float On,” “World at Large” and “Ocean Breathes Salty.”
Throughout their long and winding career, Modest Mouse is one of the few bands to never lose sight of the music. Although their old albums are much more schizophrenic and angry, the cryptic and contradictory rants so unique to this band still shine in albums as of late. Brock uses his lyrics as an avenue to a kind of controlled catharsis, while including introspective trips into his own experiences.
This complex nature of the lyrics lead to profound, yet oftentimes humorous choices. For example, a few of the more popular ’90s albums of theirs include “Building Nothing out of Something” and “The Lonesome Crowded West.” While titles like these and others have comedic intentions, they certainly reveal a little bit about the band’s perception of the world. It’s almost like the music they publish is not for us — they’re just some Seattle rockers who make stuff they like.
Brock’s style is particularly unusual in the modern rock scene. The songs are feverish, with complex structures that fluctuate like a drug-induced frenzy. Guitar and drums dictate the songs, with jerky and unclean riffs that guide the listener from verse to verse. It’s not uncommon for each of these songs to lose their cool somewhere near the end.
The drums pick up immensely, and Brock’s rants become increasingly manic. His thoughts are contradictory — and certainly sometimes under the influence. The final song on “Good News for People Who Love Bad News” is titled “The Good Times are Killing Me” and details the long and empty struggles Brock has faced regarding addiction. The lyrics are blatant, and the track ends with beautiful harmonies paired with a scratchy violin in the background.
Although many songs are chaotic and profound, the band still has fun with their recordings. On “Building Nothing out of Something,” Modest Mouse covers a “Santo and Johnny” song from the ’50s called “Sleepwalkin’” (originally titled “Sleep Walk”). The song revolves around falling in love, but doesn’t stray far from the usual antics of the band. They include weirdness in lyrics like “The white trash boys listen to their headphones / blasting white noise in the convenience store parking lot,” or “A mutual friend’s parents left town for a week / so we raided their liquor stash, walked down to the riverside.”
Modest Mouse promises to bring the perfect balance of musical talent and energy to their show in South Bend. Brock’s infectious, feverish energy, paired with intelligent lyrics, will be sure to light up the Morris Performing Arts stage.