to decipher the opening lines of Modest Mouse's "Heart cooks Brain" and you're
certain to be left with vivid mental pictures of what a brain looks like lying flaccid on
a sesame seed bun. Don't bother asking Modest Mouse's lead vocalist/guitarist Isaac Brock
what it means. That's one of the reasons he gave up talking to reporters.
point, I decided never to do interviews because I figured I could talk about music or
write it," says a groggy Brock via phone interview. "Reporters are always asking
me if I care when I get compared to the Pixies or Built to Spill. What am I supposed to
say? 'That fucking pisses me off, man. I hate that shit.'? I don't give a damn. They can
compare me to Sade and Prince for all I care."
It doesn't really matter what Brock and cohorts Eric Judy, bass, and Jeremiah Green,
drums, are trying to say or sound like. They may not understand them, but people are
starting to take notice and Modest Mouse is quickly becoming the band that replaced the
Pixies as the weirdly cool independent voice of alternative rock music.
Just how hip are they? The underground is talking. Nine Inch Nail's Trent Reznor loves
em, as does punk elder statesman Bob Mould and Matador Records' co-president Gerard Cosloy
(who doesn't count the band among his U.S. roster). Add to that a recently shared bill
with Yo La Tengo in Seattle and you've got something of a buzz going.
Brock says he's grateful for the kind words, but doesn't seem to really care. Our phone
interview woke him for the day just after lunch Seattle Time. No, he hadn't played a late
gig. He'd been out all night partying. Brock, 24, makes no bones about it, he's struggling
to keep from becoming a jaded rock star and getting caught up in the business.
"I'm trying to keep out of the business side, but it's hard. It doesn't really
have anything to do with the music. But I'm trying. I'm pretty confused, you know?"
he said. "When we started this, I never expected jack shit."
The band formed in 1992 in the Seattle suburb of Issaquah, Washington. Brock says he
met Eric Judy in a video store and had played with Jeremiah Green. After practicing and
recording demos from a shed next to his parents' house, the band recorded its first single
on Olympia's K Records in 1994. In the years that followed, they recorded a number of
singles and an EP before recording their 70-minute debut, "This is a Long Drive for
Someone with Nothing to Think About" on Up Records. But it wasn't until last year's
follow-up, "The Lonesome Crowded West," that the ball started rolling for Modest
The sound is avant-art punk, with most of the CD's 15 tracks ending in long and, in
some cases, endless-feeling grooves. The lyrics are a weary, cynical blend of reflections
of life and death, Jesus and Satan, leaving sonic clues to their influences that include
the Pixies, Meat Puppets, early Pavement and Sunny Day Real Estate. Brock's warbling voice
-- at times a hyper yell, at others, a worn-out croon -- won't register to unwilling ears.
The first spin of "Lonesome..." leaves you feeling dissonant, confused and
slightly nauseous. After spending a few hours with the CD, you begin hearing where the
band is headed. After a week, you're there with them.