There comes a time when your cool best friend, the one you most want to impress with your breadth of musical knowledge, looks at you in utter disbelief as you play your latest indie rock or avant noise or retro-cheese-pop fave, and you almost get that feeling of shame, like you've let them down. Like your taste ain't what it once was.
When several friends and I crowded our way into a Modest Mouse show earlier this year, I hardly expected that I'd want to leave five songs into their set, but the meandering guitars and threadbare vocals left me wanting more. Simply, I was let down. Their lonesome, crowded angst reminded me of what I don't like about Neutral Milk Hotel: melodrama.
Modest Mouse seemed unable to decide if they wanted to be noise or pop. Songs veered in and out of melody (but always out of tune) at seemingly random times, abruptly leaving a Neil Young riff for squealy minimalism, extended to a length just beyond tolerable. Combined with their complete lack of interaction with the audience, the show was a bore.
I felt guilty for not liking them at first. But a live show is supposed to be proof of an artist's mettle. Everybody's allowed off-nights, but a first impression colors the way you react to an artist or band for the rest of your life. Like it or not, Modest Mouse is forever the crappy band of that spring night.