Wednesday, 1 February 2012

31 Songs - Song 5

Song 5 - Modest Mouse - Float On

Some songs just put a smile on your face.  When you need it most, whatever may be going on, it's reassuring to know that there's always a song that will turn that frown upside down, even if just for three and a half minutes.  'Float On' by American indie band Modest Mouse is as near to indie-pop bliss as you can get.  It really shouldn't be, but it works perfectly.

A work colleague first introduced me to Modest Mouse around about the time that their breakthrough album 'Good News For People Who Love Bad News' was released, which was mid 2004.  We used to have a small CD player through the back of the fast food restaurant that we worked in, which was loud enough that we could hear it over the din of the fryers but out of earshot of customers.  Usually the person who was in the kitchen area would have first dibs on what was played and Donald and I had gotten into the habit of making mix CD's each week, adding in songs we thought might impress the other.  It was incidentally around this time I started to appreciate the art of the 'mixtape', a la` High Fidelity, but that's a story for another day.

The hour between 10 and 11 was generally the best hour on a Saturday shift.  Having started at 7, put away the delivery and prepped up enough food to see you through to 11, when the first wave of customers would generally appear, it was the time we could put our feet up and properly listen to the music.

From the first kicks of the drum kit and the jangly rhythm guitar, there's a feeling that this song will lift your mood.  Before your cheeks have formed into full dimples, there's a glorious little riff to contend with.  Listening to the music, which is crafted together with such care and attention, conjures up images of a merry little cartoon complete with smiling sunshine.  It's not overly complicated, prescribed in just the right amounts, and underlying is that jangly melody inviting you to sway along with it.  It's a slice of perfect pop, served up with a dollop of cream.

When I say pop, I don't mean the vacant bubble gum variety that too often is served up, I mean pop in the styling of The Beach Boys and Phil Spector.  It shouldn't really work in this sense, as lead singer Isaac Brook, doesn't have the most naturally appealing singing voice.  For the majority of Modest Mouse's work this isn't a major concern, after all their brand of alternative indie isn't exactly tailored to that particular demographic.  Listen to the opening line when it kicks in and you'll see what I mean.  Yet it works, Brook's edgy off kilter vocals make the song sound real rather than empty, the sound of a regular guy just looking for a piece of happiness in amongst the rubble of everyday life.

Lyrically that's exactly what the 'Float On' is about.  To give a direct quote from Brook's himself:

"It was [writing Float On] a completely conscious thing. I was just kind of fed up with how bad shit had been going, and how dark everything was, with bad news coming from everywhere. Our president [George W. Bush] is just a fucking daily dose of bad news! Then you've got the well-intentioned scientists telling us that everything is fucked. I just want to feel good for a day."

The first verse laments about backing into a cop car, and running your mouth off a bit too much, but both things turn out all right.  And you know what, if hitting a cop car can turn out alright, then maybe everything else can too.  But for me it's the chorus, from which the song derives its name that wins me over every time.  "We'll all float on ok", that lackadaisical attitude that no matter what's going on, we'll just float on, and you know, be happy?  And that's what we need reminded of more and more these days.  'Cause even if things get heavy, we'll all float on.  And we will.  'Float On' serves to remind us of that.

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