London Highbury Garage

[a]Modest Mouse[/a] don't boast a single radio-friendly unit-shifter to snag the hearts of today's MTV generation...

They lurch from the American northwest, preceded by the brightest of buzzes and trailed by the darkest of rumours. Word from reliable sources suggests that most poisoned of chalices, next-Nirvanadom, awaits the Mouse. Same word also suggests a similar knack for disaster and self-destruction.

And yet Modest Mouse don't boast a single radio-friendly unit-shifter to snag the hearts of today's MTV generation. The boys' lumberjack shirts (which look as though they've seen actual tree-felling) and general air of poor white trash won't win them any cute band awards. Modest Mouse belong among the more expansive elements of the American underground community.

But where fellow travellers Built To Spill sprawl outwards into some densely embellished guitar bliss, singer/guitarist Isaac Brock prefers to relentlessly chase a single riff into the ground. It's this simplicity which explains their naked emotional intensity, the rage prowling their songs is expressed, not in the notes they play, rather in how that handful of notes is played. That's why you can feel the tension building as 'Teeth Like God's Shoeshine' ekes out the same riff until, several minutes in, Brock is bent double over his guitar, literally bruising new colours out of those same scattered notes.

Within this musical autism, this internalised tumult, you can hear Brock punching out, with each clipped break, each hammered guitar head, each note he bends, white-knuckled, from his guitar. Sure, songs like 'Polar Opposites' show Modest Mouse can wrench tenderness from the melee; but their true beauty resides in Brock's grasping for this erudition.

Modest Mouse will remain ours for a little while longer, as long as they remain forever tethered between thought and expression. As they prove, it's not such a bad place to be.

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