Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Intended Ethos

This is perhaps the most well recognized image of the indie rock band Modest Mouse, a group with humble beginnings in suburban Washington. What do we notice about this picture? In the background is a dingy, dull yellow wall, and the borders seem to contain some numbers, perhaps to indicate that the image was spliced from a reel of film? We see Isaac Brock, the writer and lead singer, holding up a gramophone horn to his ear as if it were an ear horn. The rest of the band members are gathered around the horn, three peering into it, one shouting at it, and the other looking pleasantly bemused. They are all well dressed yet casual, and Isaac has his sleeves rolled up to reveal his tattoos.

The members of Modest Mouse, judging by this picture, are obviously not high-rollers. They look quite ordinary, and seem to be displaying different personality traits among them. The three peering into the horn are curious, the one shouting is bold, the one looking amused is critical. Most of the focus however, is on Isaac, whose face is aimed toward the camera in an intense expression of thought. Because he is in fact holding a gramophone horn, it symbolizes that he is the core of the group, and that their music comes from him. Perhaps his thoughts and views are exiting his head through the horn, for all the world to hear. And some people might be critical, and some people may not listen, but the majority seems to pay attention.

More obvious than this, Isaac is at the same time using the horn to listen. It is a balance. It shows that he does not let his opinions out without observing the world carefully, and by his expression, pondering it thoroughly. The picture overall reflects the style of the group very well, which is humble simplicity with underlying levels of complexity. The group sings songs about real life issues, sometimes silly, sometimes serious, and often with many metaphors and hidden meanings, so it seems appropriate that they are well recognized in the manner they are depicted here. And Isaac Brock is an ordinary person, who maybe just takes a closer look at things, and works a little harder to make other people see too.


  1. My favourite songs by them are still Float on and Dashboard.

  2. Nice to see a blog with true effort.

    Keep it up !

  3. Nice in depth look at a great band (and subsequently one of my favorite bands), Modest Mouse. look forward to more from you!