One of the more common knocks on the Pacific Northwest indie rock scene from the late ‘90s and early-to-mid 2000s (The Shins, Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists) is that, after a while, it all starts to sound the same.
This has never been a criticism leveled at Modest Mouse. Ever since the band’s 1996 debut, This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About, and 1997’s rapid successor, The Lonesome Crowded West, Modest Mouse has introduced listeners to a different Pacific Northwest indie rock sound—one filled with dark, pessimistic lyrics that range from punk to country to pure rock and roll, all backed by Isaac Brock’s distinct vocals and the killer drums and guitar solos that have come to be associated with Modest Mouse live shows.
Even after Modest Mouse hit it big with “Float On” in 2004 (and then subsequently got even bigger with the release of “Dashboard” in 2007), they continued to display a unique sound that, quite frankly, can’t be found anywhere else. And that is what has made these last seven years with hardly a peep of new music from the band so hard. While the indie rock scene has morphed into a Pitchfork-fueled, week-to-week cycle of the “hottest new things,” nothing quite comes close to Brock’s distinctive blend of music.
Yet, there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Last summer, Modest Mouse abruptly canceled their tour of the United Kingdom and Europe “to continue work on our forthcoming album.” While a release date has not yet been named, this May, Brock and Modest Mouse embark on a fresh tour starting with back-to-back nights at the Crystal Ballroom. Will Portland audiences be treated to this new material first? This music lover can only hope.
Fair warning, if you haven’t been to a Modest Mouse show in Portland before, you need to show up early. Normcore-wearing hipsters, dads in old rock tees and flannel, teenagers looking to get their first live fix, that girl who helped you at the bank earlier in the day—they’re all there. Luckily, while you suck down $7 Rubies and Terminator Stouts and feel the room close in on you as less informed music fans (read: people who didn't read this) pour in 15 minutes before the show starts, you will be in for a nice treat because opening up for Modest Mouse both nights is Survival Knife, the recent signing to Brock's Glacial Pace record label.Survival Knife is a post-rock band born out of the now-extinct Olympia-based trio Unwound. In their latest incarnation, two out of three Unwound members (Justin Trosper and Brandt Sandeno) have teamed up with longtime cohorts Stuart Hallerman, Steve Frisk and Bob Weston to produce Loose Power (out April 29). On the new album, the band, which also includes Kris and Meg Cunningham, blends the riff-heavy guitars of classic rock with the skull-splitting pulse of post-punk and post-hardcore drums—the perfect warm up to an evening with Modest Mouse.