Vetean US college rock darlings blossom into something altogether more sensitive...

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Modest Mouse : London Shepherd's Bush Empire

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Modest Mouse : London Shepherd’s Bush Empire

What is the obsession with beards these days? We only ask because tonight [a]Kings of Leon[/a] are watching [a]Modest Mouse[/a] from the cheap seats and everyone’s pointing and whispering because Caleb Followill has actually shaved his off.

The irony, of course, is that [a]Modest Mouse[/a], Seattle-based stalwarts of the American indie scene, tonight supporting [a]Bright Eyes[/a], are a very beardy sort of band – in the other sense of the word. Mixing sturdy [a]Pixies[/a]-style grunge noise with college rock staples – and undoubted forefathers of bands like [a]The Constantines[/a] and [a]The Shins[/a] – their seventh album ‘Good News For People Who Love Bad News’ sees the trio hit new strides of art-rock goodness that might as well have ‘crossover hit’ running all the way through like a stick of rock. After ten years of relative obscurity, [a]Modest Mouse[/a] look set to gatecrash the mainstream. On the strength of new single ‘Float On’, success seems a shoe-in.

Among the old songs (greeted with rapturous applause, declarations of “I love you Isaaaac!” and murmurs of “Why the hell aren’t this band the headliners?”), new stuff like ‘The World At Large’ sounds like The Flaming Lips in a circus tent full of freaks. With fiddles. ‘Never Ending Math Equation’ from 2000’s ‘Building Nothing Out Of Something’ does a fair enough impression of Bruce Springsteen at boot camp, while singer Isaac Brock himself fluctuates between angry lumberjack and sensitive drawler.

It’s a fortuitous time for [a]Modest Mouse[/a] to come back with their strongest material yet – in the wake of, say, the Pixies’ reunion, songs such as the Iggy Pop-aping ‘Black Cadillac’ will go down well with with plaid-clad early-’90s nostalgia fans. These mice are about to roar.

Cat Goodwin