RIYL: Modest Mouse

November 5, 2014

Welcome to our feature "RIYL," which, if you're not acronymically inclined, stands for "Recommended If You Like." Each time around, we'll highlight a band that you might already love, and draw connections to five other great artists you should check out if you're a fan of that artist.

photo: Modest Mouse press
Modest Mouse

This week Modest Mouse reissued their first two albums, 1996’s “This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About” and 1997’s “The Lonesome Crowded West.”

For those who only know the Mouse through the 2004 Billboard-charting “Float On” and the studio album of its origin, “Good News for People Who Love Bad News,” then you’ve got a couple albums to pick up.

Formed in Washington state in 1993, Modest Mouse spent a decade as industry outsiders before an unexpected turn as indie rock headliners. Prior to the juggernaut hit that was “Float On,” singer Isaac Brock, bassist Eric Judy and drummer Jeremiah Green crafted twangy, eccentric and biting guitar rock centered around Brock’s dynamic, often screamed vocals. Lyrical moods ranged from ornery to nihilistic to shell-shocked.

Brock was 20 at the time “Long Drive” was released, but on the first two records he sounded like a middle-aged big rig driver with a few too many caffeine pills in his bloodstream.

Pushing him on was Green, undeniably one of the best percussionists in the business at this point. His manic energy carries over well onto “The Lonesome Crowded West”; the ten-minute “Trucker’s Atlas” is perhaps the most heroically unflashy drum performance since “Sister Ray.”

Hard to believe, but the band has only recorded three proper studio albums since those first two: 2000’s “The Moon & Antarctica,” the band's musical and philosophical masterpiece; the aforementioned “Good News,” which propelled the band headfirst into the mainstream and the Fox network; and 2007’s “We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank,” which employed former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr.

We're seven years running on the wait for their next proper album. But if you’re a Modest Mouse fan, here are a few more artists you might like in the meantime:

Les Savy Fav

This Providence, R.I., band has been around releasing albums of energetic art-punk for nearly as long as Modest Mouse. Singer Tim Harrington's throat-shredding vocals are reminiscent of Brock's angriest moments.

Wolf Parade

Isaac Brock worked as an A&R man for Seattle indie label Sub Pop for a brief time. His most notable achievement was signing Canadian group Wolf Parade and working on their classic first album, "Apologies to the Queen Mary."

Brock took a stripped down production approach similar to Mouse's early records, lending a raw, tempered atmosphere to songs like "You Are a Runner and I Am My Father's Son."

Strand of Oaks

Timothy Showalter's lyricism through his Strand of Oaks project is more directly confessional than Brock's, but one could easily fathom a line like "I'm trying to drink away the part of the day I cannot sleep away" or "Before I was fat drunk and mean / Everything still lied ahead" in a song by either (the former is Brock, the latter Showalter).

Sun Kil Moon

Mark Kozelek's catalog as Sun Kil Moon definitely sits on the more mellow side of the rock spectrum compared to Modest Mouse, but he's a huge fan of the band: he released a record of Mouse covers titled "Tiny Cities" in 2005.