3 Music Videos By Modest Mouse

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Modest Mouse – Missed the Boat, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

Besides being a great song, what makes this video so interesting is, if you read what it says in the beginning of the video, a large portion of the video is actually fan created. The only portions of the music video that are not fan created are the ones featuring Modest Mouse itself, for obvious reasons. The fact that they allow their fans to articulate how the song is to be visualized toys with how the song itself should be understood. It changes the dynamic of the spectator to one of a more active role, much like the Abramovic installment in the MoMA (the performance one, not the naked one) forced a more direct involvement with the art. The whole purpose of the music video shifts from an explanation to an interpretation, not on the part of the viewer, but rather on the part of Modest Mouse, as they got the opportunity to see how their fans respond visually to their music, through the same medium that they ask their fans to understand visually. Also, it’s a crazy cool video! I mean, it’s got something for everyone, rooftop parties, mad scientists, robots, balloons with out-of-context messages, and even a Fisher-Price ViewMaster! Come on!

Modest Mouse – Dashboard, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

What comes to mind when watching this video is (1) “What?!” and (2) Isaac Brock (the storyteller) looks totally awesome with a white beard. Out of the 3 Modest Mouse music videos I’ve posted, this is probably the most normal, which says a lot about how they envision their music. In this particular music video, the story of the super big fish at the music-equipment-island with music-people (?) compliments the story of the song at a more basic level, on the grounds that the song’s story seems to match the emphatic attitude of the visual story. It’s a pretty cool pairing of music and video and it’s a concept that escapes most artist’s music video direction, as they tend to prefer the slow-motion eyebrow raise and pools shaped like Ferraris aesthetic. I think it’s an incredibly well done music video, and a story of a fisherman getting a prosthetic microphone for a hand while the winner of the 2009 Wilford Brimley look-alike contest laughs heartily in disbelief is awesome in and of itself.

Modest Mouse – King Rat, No One’s First and You’re Next

What’s probably coolest about this video is that it was actually directed by Heath Ledger. At this point, I would be wondering what’s with Modest Mouse’s strange obsession with fishing. To be fair, Heath Ledger directed it to raise awareness for the constant whaling that was going on off the coasts of Australia. But still, i guess they’re just fans of fishing. Obviously, the most noticeable part of the video is the role reversal between people and whales. It’s almost unbearable to watch at times, so kudos to Heath Ledger because this certainly raises awareness. Again, like Dashboard, the emphatic attitude and melody of the song line up nicely with video itself, making the message all that easier to receive. It’s interesting, though, that Ledger chose a music video to raise awareness, especially one that wasn’t released to MTV of VH1 (do they still play music videos?). The videos relentless approach to depicting the whaling (human-ing?) process in its full form is what I think makes it so successful at relaying the necessity of awareness. The song, in this case, is then stripped of a visual aid to help illustrate the song visually and is supplanted with a cautionary message, which, in turn, takes on the role of illustration. The end result of using a song as a vessel for policy is quite impressionable, and I think it’s pretty successful. I know I’m not going to go whaling any time soon. Also, it leaves a pretty pervasive thought in my mind that the sun is awfully creepy and whales are jerks.

-Ben Etkin

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