Modest Mouse, Picture House, Edinburgh
Wednesday 01 September 2010
Although they've maintained a small but devoted following in indie circles for more than a decade and a half, Portland-based alternative outfit Modest Mouse were first held up as a cause célèbre by the UK press in 2007, with the release of their fifth album, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. Never mind the fact that it reached No 1 in America – it was the induction of guest guitarist Johnny Marr into the band which saw Modest Mouse and their catalogue welcomed into the British rock canon.
Although Marr has since left to play the same role with Wakefield's The Cribs, or is at least out of the touring line-up, the band seem to have maintained their hard-won fanbase to judge by this sell-out gig.
In the event, this felt like a showcase of the North American alternative sound as it's developed over the last two decades. There were hints of Pixies power-rock here, of Sonic Youth's shambling but focused noise and Pavement's adept indie-pop. Echoes of elegiac alternative country crept in and, when an accordion was produced during "Education", Arcade Fire came to mind.
Yet these elements weren't so much placed alongside each other as blended together into a great noisy brew of songs which sounded remarkably similar. This might have something to do with the fact that the group employ two drummers, Joe Plummer and founding member Jeremiah Green, and what this lends in volume and power, it detracts in subtlety. There were six men up there, including singer Isaac Brock and Eric Judy on bass, and this many hands overpowered the music a little.
Which was a shame, because Brock is, at his best, a skilled composer and a mighty lyricist. An encore of "Blame It on the Tetons", "The View" and "Satin in a Coffin" was perfectly chosen, and seemed a far more representative display of the band's breadth of ability. They left with their reputation still firmly intact, celebrity guitarist or not.
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