Modest Mouse is an okay rock band with an unpleasant frontman. Intrigued?
Music journalist Goldsher (Hard Bop Academy, not reviewed, etc.) delivers an enthusiastic and somewhat unorthodox unauthorized biography of the indie-rock combo Modest Mouse; the book’s subtitle is a good indication of Goldsher’s off-the-cuff, digressive style, which finds room for lengthy asides on the personality flaws of jazz great Charlie Parker, the history and anatomy of the rock “side project” and the challenges and rewards of writing unauthorized rock biographies. These digressions, and Goldsher’s breezy, conversational tone, are most welcome, as the story of Modest Mouse’s uneventful climb to the middle is less than gripping for those not already in the fan club. Goldsher understandably places most of the focus on singer/guitarist/songwriter Isaac Brock, who possesses a grating sort of anti-charisma. A foul-mouthed, belligerent curmudgeon, Brock is presumably the voice of some generation or other, but excerpts from interviews prove him an inarticulate one, and the lyrics quoted fail to create an impression of poetic significance. Accounts of Brock’s seedy legal problems, which include a DUI conviction and rape allegation, do little to endear the man. Even the many photos included of the somewhat bloated and sullen-looking musician are off-putting. Goldsher, who is also a musician, effectively describes Modest Mouse’s off-kilter sound, and his song-by-song analysis is insightful and pointed. But such erudition seems misplaced—is a middling lo-fi band with a single hit to their credit (the yelping “Float On”) worth such careful attention? And who but the most fanatical of Brock’s following could thrill to a lengthy discussion of the bandleader’s side project Ugly Casanova, an obscurity even within the rarified confines of the indie rock scene? As well-written and researched as this material is, it is more naturally the stuff of fanzines.
A likely entertaining read for fans, but nothing to entice the general reader.