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Modest Mouse – Sad Sappy Sucker

If I wanted Pavement, I would just listen to Pavement.

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SLCR #127: Modest Mouse, 11/6/2007 (BONUS: Young James, 10/26/07)

So Mika was going to Las Vegas for a work thing, and she bought a ticket to see Modest Mouse while she was there, because hey, how often do you get to see Modest Mouse, right?  Then she got to Vegas and found that she could have seen Penn and Teller instead, which I personally think would have been cooler, but hey, Modest Mouse are nothing to sneeze at either.  And she saw the show, and said it was good.  Then she came back, and two days later, Modest Mouse announced their Canadian tour, including dates in Saskatoon and Regina.  Oh well.

I recognize that story has nothing whatsoever to do with me, but it does have to do with Modest Mouse, and I’m all about providing the bonus content. 

In a similar vein, this review has nothing whatsoever to do with Mika, who opted against seeing Modest Mouse for the second time in as many months.  This was probably to her advantage, as the Saskatoon show was described alternately as “weird” and “different.”  And both times it was implied that we weren’t talking good-weird and/or good-different.

But I don’t really know about Saskatoon, as I was in Regina, in the basement of the Conexus Arts Centre, and I was feeling pretty hot.  Temperature-wise, I mean.  The last time I saw a show there (Tegan & Sara), there was a mandatory coat check that I was able to skirt because the weather was accommodating.  This time, though, it was cold.  Actually, it’s really nice for being the first week of November, but it’s not a-sweater-is-good-enough weather.  Wanting to beat the mandatory coat check, my heaviest outer layer was a bunnyhug.  Wanting to not freeze and die in or near the car, I was wearing the bunnyhug overtop a sweater overtop a t-shirt.  Possibly, this was a bit much.

I showed up around 9:00 and met up with Colin a few minutes thereafter.  The place was crazily busy, and one band was already playing.  According to Pitchfork, Modest Mouse was touring with Man Man and Love As Laughter.  Not sure who was playing right when I got there, and I didn’t see either opening act, so I could have mangled the details quite badly.  But here’s how I believe things went; the doors opened at 8:00 and the first band, Love as Laughter, started soon after.  Like I said, I didn’t see them, and neither did Colin, but he talked to someone who did see them, and that person described the band as “a great big bag of suck.”  Specifically, a really greasy, overfull bag that’s about to burst.  I suggested that it might have been ten pounds of suck in a five pound bag, and Colin said that his friend’s description indicated that there was even MORE suck in the bag than that.  That’s a lot of suck.  But I didn’t see them, so I don’t know.

Man Man was next up – I bet they started around 9:00?  I didn’t see them either, as Colin and I stood around the lobby part with Colin’s friend Andrew and his friends and their friends.  We just kinda hung out and told stories, which was a challenge, since music is loud.  So I don’t really know much about the stories that I had been told, and I don’t think anyone heard the stories that I was telling.  Pretty much, we’d just go around in a circle and take turns moving our lips, and there would be laughter and/or knowing nods of approval when each person stopped.  Somewhere in here was where I heard that the Saskatoon show was different and weird, but that might not be anything close to what was actually said.

Since I didn’t see Man Man, I will defer to Jeff’s review, which says that they were “completely bizarre, and quite awesome,” and that they all played a bunch of instruments, including a giant Kinder Egg.  I am kinda bummed that I missed this, actually.  Instead, we kept standing around.  People left, people joined us, and I had very little idea where people were going or who the new people were.  Colin went on a quest to find his cousin Scott, I know that much.  And I believe the quest never did succeed.

When Man Man finished, a bunch of people came out into the lobby part, which was when we decided to move into the theatre and take over the good standin’ spots.  This didn’t really work out, but whatever.  I had to find Colin to tell him that our little cluster of people was on the move.  After I did so, I turned around and ran into Jeff (not literally), who apparently exists in the real world and not just the internet.  For months, we’ve been going to the same shows and not seeing each other or even entirely knowing what the other person looks like.  It was like having a Robot Laura of my very own.

Other people I happened to see:
 – Mary’s husband Chris
 – some guy from the record store in the mall
 – some girl from the Shoppers Drug Mart by my house
 – the lady who runs the Folk Festival
 – some guy who looked kind of like Travis, but I don’t think it was Travis
 – many people who I suggested were Colin’s cousin Scott, but weren’t

So, Modest Mouse.  In one of my exceedingly-rare CD reviews, I said that the new Modest Mouse album all sounded the same, but it was a sameness that I enjoyed a lot.  That’s how I feel about a lot of albums (hello, New Pornographers) until I listen to them quite a few times and grow to appreciate the nuances.  And the new Modest Mouse no longer sounds all the same to me, but the concert kind of did.  I didn’t mean it as a real criticism of the album, and I don’t mean it as a criticism of the concert.  It’s just how it was.  I liked it fine.

By and large, the song selection was what I expected, in that it was songs I recognized (from the past two albums; primarily the most recent one) mixed with some songs I didn’t.  Playing the “they played ____” and “they didn’t play ____” game is kind of meaningless unless you’re a die-hard fan of the band who knows their whole catalogue, and in this case, I am not that.  I was a bit saddened that they didn’t play my favourite songs off each of the newest albums (Ocean Breathes Salty from Good News for People who Love Bad News; Parting of the Sensory off We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank), but what can you do?

I will say that the sound could have been better.  Colin said that he’d relate to the songs more if he could have understood one word of the lyrics.  For me, I knew more of the songs so I could fill in the blanks well enough, but I couldn’t understand them when they were just talking.  I don’t know if it was the sound system or the building’s acoustics or if they were just muttering random syllables, but I couldn’t make out a word of it.  Also, there was a lot of feedback, leading to an epic battle of Lead Singer vs. The Other Microphone.  There would be feedback, and the other microphone would get shoved, then there’d be more feedback, then it would get shoved again, then there’d be MORE feedback, and the microphone would get tossed.  Then between songs, a guy came out to set up the microphone again and make sure everything was working smoothly.  And then there was more feedback.  I thought this was greatly amusing.

At the encore break, I thought about leaving, but stuck around until the encore started.  I didn’t know the song, it was late, I was tired, and my feet were sore, so I split.  Judging from Jeff’s recap, I didn’t miss much.  And I made it out of the parking lot with ease, but I could have checked a coat after all, since I left early.  I’ll be uncomfortable for hours to save myself minutes – that says something about me, I think.  Something stupid.

Wow, rereading this, it sounds like I hated this show!  I really didn’t!  I had a good time and heard some great songs and overall, I really enjoyed myself.  I wouldn’t rank it up there with the White Stripes or anything, but I’d say it topped Queens of the Stone Age, and I’d go see them again.  Not at the expense of seeing Penn and Teller or anything, but still.

BONUS NOT-A-FULL-REVIEW: Young James (10/26/07)

The friend-of-a-friend precedent was set way back in SLCR #74, when I tacked a brief Fy recap onto a Danny Michel review.  It’s a handy way to lazily cover shows that I don’t have anything to say about.  In fact, I kind of wish my friends were friends with people in lots of bands.  It would make my job so much easier.

Anyway, Young James (no relation) is made up of two people whose last names are Young and James (no relation).  One of them is married to or dating or is in some way associated with a friend of Mika’s, and that’s how we wound up at Amigo’s.  Remember all those times I said I’d never go back to Amigo’s?  Yeah, I knew just how likely that was to stick.

In all fairness to Amigo’s, rumours of their new sound system have proven to be true, and… wow.  I was seriously impressed.  The new system was a huge improvement over the awful, broken mess that ruined Junofest.  Of course, a megaphone made out of rolled-up construction paper would have been an improvement, so it will take a few trips before I can fairly evaluate it – and that sucks, because it means several trips to Amigo’s, and I’m still an old man who needs his beauty sleep. 

The opener was Basia Bulat, which I think is pronounced BEIGE-uh BOO-lay.  I knew nothing about her – including how to pronounce her name – apart from the fact that she was on tour with Final Fantasy up until the week before this show.  I had kind of wanted to see them, and then I didn’t.  What an AWESOME story I have for you!  Anyway, the songs were pretty and there were unusual instruments and this was plenty fine.  Mika seemed to enjoy the show as well, though she noted that it wasn’t the kind of thing she’d normally be into, and she was probably just overwhelmed by the improved sound system.

Young James (no relation) (still HILARIOUS) was up next.  I was told to expect country, but I listened to the songs on their MySpace and found more of a country and folk influence rather than full-on country.  Basically, I thought “hey, I bet Mark would like these guys.”  This is the kind of statement that means something to precisely one of you. 

At any rate, I liked these guys too!  In fact, they now outrank Fy on my chart of top friends-of-friends bands.  It’s a chart of two, but still.  I didn’t stay for the whole thing since I’d been up at 6:00 every day that week, and I could only manage to stay out until 1:30 or so.  My internal time is not in sync with Amigo’s time.  But I’d go again, and listen to the first half of their set again, and wimp out due to exhaustion again.  It was a good time.

Free music: http://radio3.cbc.ca/bands/Young-James/ 

Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank

Wrote this in my head the other day.  Never got around to typing it out until this evening.

——

I bought this album this morning.  Just finished listening to it now.  My first reaction is that the whole thing may well have been just one really long song.  Sure, I was working while this was playing, but still.  Nothing stood out.  All very similar.

Having said that, it was all one very good song.  If it was all similar, it wasn’t a BAD similar.  Even when I wasn’t really paying attention, I caught myself tapping my toes and bopping up and down.  Fun times.

I am a delight to work with, as you can tell.

So what then?  Well, this nicely illustrates why I came up with this whole plan of revisiting old albums that I used to love.  Even if I haven’t heard them in years, I am very familiar with those albums.  I dare say I know them.  And that takes time.

For right now, I say that the new Modest Mouse is “perfectly fine.”  Should you buy it?  Well, I found it new for $9, and I figure it was worth that, so if you find the same deal, then yeah, go for it.

But I can’t tell you how I’ll feel about this album in six months’ time.  “Perfectly fine” is my initial reaction to a lot of albums.  Sometimes I get distracted by something else and I never wind up going back to give a CD a second chance.  Other times I play the album again – mostly out of guilt, since I spent good cash moneys on it – and after a few spins, something just clicks and it becomes a favourite.  That’s how New Pornographers albums generally work for me.  I listen, they’re good, but nothing stands out.  A few more listens and everything suddenly sounds distinct and delightful.  Maybe that will happen here?  I can’t tell you.  But I enjoy tapping my toes and bopping up and down, so I am hopeful.  I’ll make a point of giving it a second chance.

——

Coming soon – more reviews of old stuff – I promise!  Weird Al concert review!  Maybe something about Guitar Hero since I’ve been playing too much of it lately!

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