Power to the (Indie) Proletariat!

Modest Mouse Modest Mouse
with Gaze
The Starfish Room
Vancouver, B.C.
Saturday, January 31, 1998

Review by Darren Gawle
Photography by Rodney Gitzel

Funny thing, this indie rock lark, eh? One minute, the Georgia Straight is eulogizing indie rock because the Grifters can't sell out the 'Fish any more; the next, the Straight claims indie rock is alive and well and living in Issaquah, Washington, and Modest Mouse can pack 'em in three shows running.

Gaze So, no, indie rock isn't dead... yet. For every farcical exercise in middle-class underachievement, there's at least one Modest Mouse waiting in the wings to restore our faith in humanity -- and at no time more obviously than tonight.

But if Modest Mouse are indie rock, the ideal, then openers and local kandy-popsters Gaze are indie rock, the reality. I suppose that Gaze feel they should be lauded for what they aren't (i.e. sellout pseudo-anarchist corporate rock flunkies....hel-looo Chumbawamba!), but unfortunately this leaves very little left as to what they are. The Lois/Velocity Girl sound is so generic that even Lois herself has been getting beyond it recently, and ultimately the songwriting is unfocused, twee and forgettable.

Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock What begins to rankle more than a little is the apparent nudge-nudge, wink-wink relationship Gaze seem to have with local promoters due to their CiTR/Discorder connections, resulting in a level of recent opening-spot exposure out of proportion to the level of talent in the band. The words 'double' and 'standard' spring inevitably to mind.

So what exactly do Modest Mouse have that will pay for the Starfish's liquor license this month? I haven't a clue, actually. To the uninitiated (e.g. me), confusion reigns as you try to figure out where exactly you've heard this stuff before -- it's familiar but difficult to trace. Modest Mouse's sound exists on the axis that could be drawn between Built to Spill and GodHeadSilo, with some evidence that Issaquah's pride and joy also listen to the occasional Suicide track. Unique, and in the least obvious way possible.

Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock Considering the rumours that frontman Isaac Brock has, in the past, wandered the audience for twenty minutes, high on crack and bellowing into a megaphone, I'll be thankful for the generally subdued state of the band tonight. Brock reaches compelling levels of intensity, delivering stabbing guitar work with his treble-tastic Fender JagStang and buckshot lyrical delivery. Bassist Eric Judy seems content to hold the bottom end in place, while drummer Jeremiah Modest Mouse bassist Green flips the bird to the increasing number of stage-divers and crowd-surfers who invade Modest Mouse's space in the absence of any overt stage antics on the part of the band.

A puzzling experience, ultimately. The sound equivalent of the Wyeth brothers using an Etch-a-Sketch shouldn't provoke a moshpit, but needless to say it does. And the number of fratboys at the show, as opposed to Vancouver's indie elite -- what of this? After a surprisingly 'British' encore (walk off stage, count to ten, walk back on stage), Modest Mouse concludes with "Dramamine," a wistful exercise in good ol' songwriting.

Perhaps there is nothing, in the end, to 'get' here. The hicks are in charge now (witness bassist Judy's ballcap and trucker's vest apparel); and perhaps the sooner indie rock develops a more earthy, proletariat, and common sense approach to its own bullshit, the more indie rock may develop something of a lifespan.

First published in Drop-D Magazine on February 22, 1998

Index | Search | E-mail | Info | Copyright

Considering copying some of the images from this story?
Please read this first. Thanks.