Crude title aside, this is classic Modest Mouse. And since being tetchy and asocial is kind of Isaac Brock’s whole thing, persona-wise, the crude title just ties into the big picture anyway. Modest Mouse has always been music for the slightly maladjusted. Life might rub us the wrong way, and love might be incomprehensible, but we do love a good philosophical musing. There’s a balance between a studied persona of sustained grumpiness and deep-thinking, philosophy-struck intellectualism which is echoed by the musical contrast of aggressive near-atonal noise-rock and pop melodies verging on ethereal. Now that I think about it, everything about Modest Mouse is bi-polar like that. I guess that’s what’s kept them interesting for what’s turned out to be decades.
“Underneath it all, we’re just savages
Hidden behind shirts, ties and marriages…”
As if I needed anything to validate my lack of faith in the species. We are, all told, impenetrably dumb, desire-driven dysfunctional monkeys and the only thing we’ve got going for us is a pop song or two. But, as Marina points out, we like to think that our suits and social institutions elevate us somehow. It’s all about that veneer of civilization that makes us think we have our shit together. Shocker, we don’t have our shit together. But, again, we do have culture, which is more than most of the other animals can say for themselves, and if it doesn’t redeem us in the grand universal scheme of things, at least it makes our short and brutish lives a tiny bit more meaningful.
How could you not be impressed? If you came upon Ryn Weaver, not knowing who she was or what to expect, you would be floored. As I was, when I saw her perform as an opening act for Billy Idol. She is just so fresh and compelling in her vocals and her personality, beautiful and great on stage, and once you’ve sat down to really listen, a good writer too. Obviously, in a fair world, she would be a huge star, but it’s not a fair world and the most interesting people are not always the most rewarded. According to her Instagram, Ryn’s biggest news is a rather drastic bleach job. Still awaiting new music though.
“So much of my album has to do with running away and refusing to settle in one place. It’s about the good and the bad of going out on your own.” – Ryn Weaver
Clearly, running away has been a popular theme. It’s particularly poignant for young women who wish to escape from stifling home lives and see the expectations of their future as nothing but a burden. The option to run away and become a traveling musician isn’t exactly a new one; theater troupes and gypsy caravans have called out to the brave for centuries, and the performing arts have long been a designated haven for nonconformists. The idea of making a break for it is still a powerful one, even though we now enjoy a lot more personal freedom than ever before.
Noise can be cathartic and fun, as any toddler could tell you. Some people listen to nothing but aggressive noise-music, which is clearly a red flag regarding their mental health. Most of us have at least one or two really loud and noisy records that our neighbors hate us for blasting. For me, The Dead Weather are a primary ‘venting’ band. They’re not the loudest or most aggressive band that ever was, but they know about distortion and they know about delivering attitude. Just enough to annoy people who are just trying to have a quiet day.
Ms Mr should be on your radar of very important electropop groups. You might remember me loving their most recent album, way back in 2015. Of course, I’m waiting for whatever may be next. I just really want to observe someone’s career grow and flourish. I want to see that it’s possible to build a long-term career as a mid-level independent artist who works for their fanbase and themselves and doesn’t rely on the corporate machinery that keeps the biggest superstars pumped full of helium. There’s a lot of promising young groups, and inevitably, most of them will most likely throw in the towel sooner rather than later. I’m not making bets on who will or will not thrive, because that’s mean. Rather, I think it’s great that there’s a platform for so many musicians to promote themselves and find a niche and be rewarded, even on a modest scale, thanks to social media and home technology.
The visual album is the future. It has been known, since Queen Bey made it so. But I haven’t noticed a stampede of artists trying to emulate the success of Lemonade. Understandable enough. It’s a high bar, making an album is challenging enough without the extra work of producing a visual narrative, and not many people have that much creativity or resources. Still, it’s the future. One artist who has been working in visual album territory is Florence Welch. She released an interconnected series of videos in support of her last album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. Though the final film changes the order of the songs, it encompasses the album and tells a loose narrative reflecting its themes. It’s an emotionally turbulent story of the singer’s personal struggle, of dealing with heartbreak, family, heritage and selfhood. Though she has not shared the details of the specific events that inspired her, she has spoken of dealing with depression recently, as well as the isolation and exhaustion that come with stardom – all of which lead to relationship trouble and heavy drinking. All of which is ample material for a dramatic narrative, albeit a fictionalized one that leans on allegory and symbolic imagery.