A few nights ago I was at one of the stranger concerts of my handsome young life: Modest Mouse, who since around the time I was born have been yelling about cockroaches and the Devil and stuff, and are somehow still at it, on a Friday night in Utrecht, half an hour south of Amsterdam as the train, my ticket for which no one ever checked and therefore I’m a little annoyed I paid like €15 for (rule for converting Euro to Dollar: take the numeral of whatever you were gonna pay in Euro, then imagine Obama’s neofascist regime has instituted an exorbitant sales tax for the ostensive purpose of driving down unemployment by in fact hiring Clockwork Orange-esque youths to: [push the elderly off bronze, building-sized busts of Trotsky’s smirking head / steal and eventually misplace the game, especially deer and pheasants, which gun owners had just gotten up to go off and hunt / replace all Biblical references to Jesus Christ with Latinized versions of the phrase “The Gay Agenda” {“Rationarium in Munionem”} over the course of one feverish, all-night revision session]), glides.

Backstory: Modest Mouse’s vocalist, lispy yodeler/punk freak Isaac Brock, has been slyly crafting for like two decades a kind of staggering canon of brilliant pop songs—if you know “Float On” but are curious about what other bounties this beautiful world may yet hold out there, stop reading this blog right now and listen to this. The band arose, kinda like your devoted blogman, from the sickly Washingtonian suburbs-retreating-into-the-rural wild surrounding a Pacific Northwestern city (them: near Seattle; me: near Portland), first as the kind of self-righteously shrill punk outfit you’ll find yipping hoarsely behind the garage doors of said cities to this day, with a decent amount of guitar noodling borrowed from indie royalty Pavement thrown in—and let’s, you and I, right now make a pact not to describe bands in terms of other bands unless we’ve got a really good reason for doing it (that kind of writing annoys the hell out of me); mine here being that since its unoriginal beginnings, Modest Mouse has since gone on to do its totally unique thing for a very long time, so having an early reference point serves to remind us of their humble origins (i.e. gods they may be but even gods used to not be gods)—as Brock got more poetic and the band’s experimentation more deliberate, they put together two utterly incredible albums, the raucous “The Lonesome Crowded West” (on anyone’s shortlist of best album names) and one of the All Time Miles Top Favorites “The Moon & Antarctica,” which floats between heartbreaking nihilism and dark goofing—the album’s fulcrum is the vertiginous heads of “The Stars Are Projectors” slipping into the gallows humor tails of “A Wild Pack of Family Dogs.” It was the album a 17-year-old Miles listened to driving pretty much anywhere during 11th (?) grade. Since then, the weirdness has continued, albeit within a more friendly, chiming soundscape beginning with the “Good News For People Who Love Bad News” album (and its smash single “Float On”) and the two following albums, neither of which have pulled me in beyond my cursory listens of each.

So kinda like seeing The Beach Boys a month ago, my expectations were low going into the concert—just how long can an artistic force-turned-corporate festival headliner keep its act going, anyway? But I wasn’t let down: not only did they tear through their set with surprising fervor, they even mostly stuck to “Good News” and earlier, rather than new slickness (and even the pop stuff was good. . . sayyy, “The dashboard melted but we’ve still got the radio” is kind of a fun lyric, isn’t it?).

But as stated, this was a weird show. Every few songs, Brock would pause and ask the audience how the sound was—possibly because he didn’t think it was right, but maybe because they were yelling as much to him? Eventually, he and a techie rotated his monitors to face into the audience, which got some celebratory rock ‘n’ roll fist pumping from those in the front. But apparently even this didn’t satisfy everyone, because as the band was ending old favorite “Dark Center of the Universe,” Brock smashed his guitar, end down, into the ground, then, as a techie came to restrain him, stormed offstage. The band looked at one another, then, with a kind of collective shrug, took off their instruments and walked offstage. The violinist flashed her ten fingers at the crowd, which stood around, buzzing. Next to me, across a rope line, was a youngish guy who worked for the venue and who had no idea what was going on. After about ten minutes, the band returned; after the first song, Brock was back in conversation with the crowd closest to the stage, at one point asking for a vape (possibly his—had it been taken?), which was thrown onto the stage. “Ha ha,” Brock grinned. “Just because I asked you to throw it doesn’t mean I was gonna catch it.” After a couple more songs, the band left for real, Brock intoning, “Thanks so much for coming out, and thanks for sticking around.”

Isaac Brock, you are a weird little dude, possibly playing the eccentric front man, very possibly an actually eccentric front man. Happy 40th.

In Honor Of Isaac Brock’s Birthday This Title Is Short(er), But Don’t Worry, I Haven’t Lost My Edge: Seventeen: Mouse was last modified: July 10th, 2015 by Miles Hewitt