Tag Archives: Dramamine

The Full Picture: Modest Mouse

This is the first edition of a new series of posts here on Airwaves. In ‘The Full Picture’ we will look over a notable alternative artist’s entire discography and note how the sound evolved from album to album, as well as pointing out each album’s best tracks using the magical powers of hindsight. The perfect starting point for me with this is to cover my favorite artist out there: Modest Mouse. All the EPs and every album (just not the two cassette tapes from 1993), starting off with…

Modest Mouse- "Blue-Cadet 3 Do You Connect?" (1994)
Modest Mouse- “Blue-Cadet 3 Do You Connect?” (1994)

The first release for the band is an EP in 1994 named after the title track “Blue Cadet 3-Do You Connect?” and it packs five songs into 7 minutes and 34 seconds including a minute long intro for “It Always Rains on A Picnic“. On this first EP Modest Mouse is incredibly depressing in it’s song topics already, with the aforementioned title track existing as a question to a man lost in space being followed by 30 seconds of silence. The ending track “5-4-3-2-1 Lipsoff” is a thirty second track where we get Brock giving social commentary for the first time, as he makes jokes in the background and references his own lisp before ending the EP with the most profound statement on the album “Whatcha want, whadayou want from outer space?”. Overall some of the best qualities of Modest Mouse are present on this release, but the band wasn’t able to really write a full song at this point.

Track Picks: “Dukes Up

Modest Mouse- "This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About" (1996)
Modest Mouse- “This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About” (1996)

It’s hard to fathom what a gigantic step forward the band took with this release, and the progression is obvious the second that you hear the opening guitar on “Dramamine”. No wasted time, some anger, and a decisive message in the music. You get to hear Brock get pissed off on this album through tracks like “Breakthrough” and his f*** you message to the people fleeing Washington to California, “Beach Side Property” (really one of two on the album along with “Head South“). Another really interesting thing which develops on “Beach Side Property” is how the rocking track where Brock opens with a loud, throaty scream, suddenly slows down and turns into Brock incorporating a religious metaphor into the song. This album is the first time that the band incorporated the religious theme into their music and it proved to be a topic where Brock was very good at displaying his viewpoints. Another huge difference between this was how Modest Mouse jammed, as they’re only one on Blue Cadet-3 was on “It Always Rains on a Picnic” which was noticeable more mellow. On This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About (TIALD from here on out) the more rock oriented jams show up to establish Modest Mouse as what they truly were, a 90s alternative rock group who was capable of morphing their sound into the other genres as well. 

Track Picks: Edit the Sad Parts, Dramamine, Beach Side Property

Modest Mouse- "Interstate Eight" (1996)
Modest Mouse- “Interstate 8” (1996)

Modest Mouse’s second EP released is what they’re demo tape was, and it contains some great Modest Mouse songs on it like “Edit the Sad Parts”, “Whenever You Breathe Out, I Breathe In (Positive/Negative)” and “Broke“. Still, I’m not going to go into this EP because all of the songs found their way into another album where they are better known and more easily identified, and this EP is viewed nowadays as more of a collector’s item than anything else.

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Kyle’s Favorite 100 Songs: 20-11

Here are numbers 20-11 on my countdown of my 100 favorite songs.

20. Daniel Johnston- True Love Will Find You in the End

But how can it recognize you unless you step out into the light, the light?

Daniel Johnston is a difficult musician to familiarize yourself with because, in honesty, there is a lot of bad music in his discography. The reason why he’s important is that Johnston, the manic depressive and schizophrenic, has moments in his music which reach absolute beauty. “True Love Will Find You in the End” is a song which begs it’s listener to not give up the belief that you will find the one…eventually. It’s a song to represent the hope that if you stay open and yourself for long enough, one day luck will turn your way and you’ll find the perfect person for you; and that’s the point of everything. You can build up barriers and try to send off a false message, but if you continue to be yourself and look for love then it will find you in the end. “True love is searching too, but how can it recognize you unless you step out into the light”? It’s a discouraging quest (“Don’t be sad, I know you will”), but he believes in the promise of the reward.

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19. Bright Eyes- A Song to Pass the Time

“Now I have locked my actions in the grooves of routine/ So I may never be free of this apathy/ But I wait for a letter that is coming to me/ She sends me pictures of the ocean in an envelope

It’s not a part of “A Song to Pass the Time”, but the interview that precedes this song at the end of “An Attempt to Tip The Scales” is a very good introduction to this track. “A Song to Pass The Time” is told in a manner similar to what Dylan would do, in that they wrote down their observations and described real human interactions rather then trying to conjure a story with a point in mind. The difference between Dylan and Oberst is that while Dylan would say what was there due to his confidence and experience, the younger and depressed Oberst seems to focus on what he thinks is missing. Why does he love the mexican children kicking rocks in the street? Why are all the businessmen and suburban mothers so emotionless and repetitive? Why isn’t my desperation to stay close to the people who I’ve formed a close relationship with shared? I love the verse above because it shows Oberst’s hope that at some point love will just save him from all of this, and she’ll be able to help him understand everything that tortured him before.

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18. The Postal Service- We Will Become Silhouettes

“We become silhouettes when our bodies finally go.”

I love tragic songs that sound happy, and “We Will Become Silhouettes” is the poster boy for that category. Death is still a certainty, in fact it seems to tell the story of an explosion which will is going to kill us all, but it’s become a celebration because that’s when our bodies will finally become silhouettes! We shall become immortalized once “our shells simply cannot hold all our insides in and [then] explode”. Tamborello’s music is cheerful and stuffed with simple, melodic rhythms to represent the joy of the song in it’s own beautiful way, only one example of how well these two worked together on the album.

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Kyle’s Favorite 100 Songs: 30-21

Here are numbers 30-21 on my countdown of my 100 favorite songs.

30. Sufjan Stevens- Casimir Pulaski Day

All the glory that the Lord has made/ And the complications when I see His face/ In the evening in the window.

There is a fantastic breakdown of this song right here. Stevens makes it the most genuine and sad song that he’s ever made in my opinion, and the storyline proves to be absolutely tragic. Death takes on a whole new level of sadness when it takes the life of a young girl, and this song shows the scene unfurl from the perspective of a young boy who was experiencing his first love with her. The sadness hits everyone, and it makes what was once a devout christian boy question why a good christian girl hasn’t started to feel better yet, and he fully loses his faith once he realizes that she’s actually dead and looks for God for an explanation only to see his own reflection. Now for every year there will be a chance for the entire city to remember the girl that he lost tragically, but nobody will be aware of it’s significance as anything more than Casimir Pulaski Day with the exception of the narrator.

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29. Guided By Voices- Tractor Rape Chain

“Parallel lines on a slow decline/ Tractor rape chain.

“Tractor Rape Chain” is a song about a relationship, and it’s failures which are never going to end. The opening stanza shows that the couple can’t even trust each other anymore when they communicate, but they know that they’re still destined to spend the rest of their lives together. The song then moves into the bedroom of the couple where the husband struggles with the notion of divorce, but it’s something that he refuses to even consider, represented by a “ghost in [my] room and he says [he] better run”. The narrator can see the ghost, he can hear the ghost, but his entire life he’s told people he doesn’t believe in ghosts, so he just pleads for it to go away. Let him continue as his part of the “parallel lines on a slow decline” until his death arrives.

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28. Okkervil River- Black

“You should wreck his life the way that he wrecked yours/ You want no part of his life anymore.”

Another incredibly sad plot line here as the narrator’s currently in a relationship with a girl who just revealed to him that something awful happened in her past (“Amy in the White Coat” style awful). Her father destroyed her life, and he didn’t get any repercussions for this. In fact he left to move on to a new wife, a new kid, and a new life where he trashes his old kid at any chance he gets (“You should say his name the way that he says yours”). The narrator gets furious at this story and what this man has done to her, and tells her that he’s going to rip this guy’s throat out, that he’s going to go to his new family and destroy his life by telling them what he’s done, but she tells him not to. In order to ruin his life she’d have to acknowledge him again, and she’s rather just have “no part of his life anymore”.

Continue reading Kyle’s Favorite 100 Songs: 30-21