There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Far from producing the squeaks of timid rodents, the trio that calls itself Modest Mouse intriguingly mixes post-adolescent cynicism with a musical earnestness that manifests itself in boisterous disarray. But with two albums and two EPs under their belts, these lads from Issaquah, Wash., are hardly novices. On the group’s latest full-length release, The Lonesome Crowded West, Modest Mouse tears a gaping hole in the canvas of complacency by dealing out rounds of biting, imaginative anecdotes and setting them to foot-thumping beats. Backed by the savvy drumming of Jeremiah Green and the melodic bass playing of Eric Judy, the singing and strumming of hoarse-voiced frontman Isaac Brock bear an uncoincidental resemblance to those of Frank Black. Brock’s lyrics are cluttered with impossible metaphors primarily concerned with the banalities of suburban living, but the seeming callousness with which he spews forth often belies a sensitive intent. In “Heart Cooks Brain,” he reveals, “In this place that I call home/My brain’s a cliff/And my heart’s the bitter buffalo.” And the landscapes he describes are as varied as the forbidding characters that inhabit them. The album’s greatest strength is its versatility; it covers terrain from punk rock for the kids (with a Zeppelin twist) on “Shit Luck” to acoustic guitar- and fiddle-accompanied shenanigans on “Jesus Christ Was an Only Child.” At 70-some minutes, it’s a hefty listen, but The Lonesome Crowded West sneaks up on you like a slow train. Sure, it’s a long ride, but the scenery’s great.Amy Domingues