Brand New and Modest Mouse make for an ideal live performing pair in the year 2016. They have enjoyed similar trajectories and are both representative of American popular music. They both originated in the same sweet-spot centrally located between mass appeal and sexily subversive messages and sounds. Brand New did it with heavy whiny emo affectation and Modest Mouse with a gentle folk sensibility. Both bands have enjoyed a mainstream popularity by appealing to the vast swaths of suburban kids, all equally dissatisfied with the unabashed vapidity of corporate pop music and all host to a vague desire to belong to some kind of subculture. Both bands mobilized them en masse for their own popular success, paradoxically contributing greatly to the rote sameness by which they and their fans were originally so disgusted. Modest Mouse reached an unprecedented level of success for their sort of sound, and has become something of a paragon for popular alternative bands. They were one of the first real car-commercial-indie bands of which we now see an abundance. Today they are both now subject to their first waves of nostalgia, and to see them perform together today is to see one of the first candlelight vigils for the official passing of the 2000s.
A concert cannot be deemed a funeral just because a band is no longer in vogue; plenty of artists perform well past their heyday without being subject to this “remember when” phenomenon. This Brand New and Modest Mouse tour is ultimately a nostalgia tour for the 2000s because of the bands’ similarity to each other, their former selves and to their fidelity and conformity to the emotive style that was so in vogue in 2005. They are both totally emblematic of their respective genres, both totally emblematic of their shared time, the two different sides to the 2005 popular ethos. Modest Mouse the well-meaning, watered-down hipster spiritual seeker, Brand New his blithely suicidal Hot Topic clad id.
The two bands had been taking turns opening for each other on this tour, luckily with Modest Mouse opening for Brand New this time. They sound the same as they always have, desperately frenetic and repetitively booming. The songs still boast artfully written lyrics, but they are rendered incoherent by Isaac Brock’s raspy braying. As a whole the performance was anti-entertaining. Modest Mouse had counted on evoking pleasant familiarity by replaying the broad perky indie music they engineered 13 years ago. But they didn’t account for how exhausted the audience has since become of their brand of sticky sincerity, as a result of being subjected to it everyday by television and radio. We’ve become more numb — we are no longer so amused. These songs are much too similar to each other, the ones performed by Modest Mouse and the all the other car commercial indie songs that might have well been. By the time they got to “Float On,” one has already realized that these songs are mere jingles, not just for car commercials but jingles for themselves also, bouncy songs selling themselves to you with premeditated key changes and focus-grouped melodies. It’s more sinister than proper pop music for all its mascarade of authenticity-themed sincerity, and when stationary people pull out their iPhones to document the jingle they remember so well from middle school, it is enough to make one burn with contempt for the entire technological innovation information roil.
Brand New immediately brightened the crowd with their more recent songs, and made them giddy with their older songs. Jesse Lacey sung with a sophisticated gravely dark tone, eschewing his baby whine of yore, and Vincent Accardi wriggled around charismatically, all playing very loudly. The whole thing was a well-executed attempt at appearing tough, but the sexy image was compromised once they reverted to their older hits, which are far too pouty for anything like believable badass-ery. In the end, both bands did a nice job of giving the audience what they so sorely missed. It seems that even the most vapid music can enjoy some level of nostalgic fondness if you only wait a few years.
Location: Sleep Train Ampitheatre
Image Courtesy of Tiqiq