Modest Mouse: “Polar Opposites”
If you were to put a pin on a map for where each of the artists that appear on Reselect.com come from, today’s artist will, with 99.9% certainty, no matter who else I feature here, be the closest pin to where I live. That is to say that Modest Mouse was started in Issaquah, Washington, a town just down the road from here. And in an area where it’s much more common to hear that musicians are “from Seattle,” that’s saying something. Issaquah is a nice enough place, with some beautiful surroundings, but it doesn’t show up in the national spotlight all that frequently.
In any case, I’m not actually a huge Modest Mouse fan — I certainly do like a lot of their songs, but they’re not among the bands that I consider real favorites. I do appreciate them, though, generally enjoying what it is that they do. When they get it right, they really get it right. The influence of The Minutemen on them is readily apparent, most clearly in Isaac Brock’s singing style, a speak-sing kind of thing, but they’ve taken that and blended it with other sounds (Talking Heads and Pixies both come to mind) for something that’s a sound all their own.
Although Modest Mouse’s commercial breakthrough came with their 2004 album, Good News for People Who Love Bad News, and that album’s huge single, “Float On,” my favorite song of theirs comes from their 1997 album, Lonesome Crowded West. It’s a great indie rock album that I didn’t discover until a few years after its release, but a little before “Float On” came along. I heard “Polar Opposites,” on Pandora, I think it was, and was hooked. The slow, measured tempo and the plunky guitar are attention-grabbers, and Brock’s subdued singing on the verses mixed with his outbursts on the choruses (very Pixies-like in that way) seals the deal. There’s a smoldering intensity to the song that makes it work on multiple levels and elevates it as one of the best indie rock songs of the ’90s.