Modest Mouse: Carling Academy, Liverpool

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Andy Kelly digests an evening with one of England’s greatest guitarists… oh, and, some band called Modest Mouse.


IT’S ironic that Johnny Marr, the lauded guitarist from that most English of bands, The Smiths, should enjoy another major success with an American indie rock band.
But Marr’s amalgamation into the relatively obscure Modest Mouse has already garnered them an American Billboard Number One album and a host of positive reviews. Here comes another.
After keeping us waiting rather unduly, and teasing us with the occasional PA blast of Morrissey’s Irish Blood, English Heart, the first surprise as the six-piece take the stage is the presence of two drummers, both clad in Dennis the Menace style vests.
The last great American band I saw do that in Liverpool – the drums, not the vests – was the mighty Pavement and it seems to be a sign of great things to come.
Even at short notice, there’s a good crowd in a sweltering Academy and the early roar as the lights focus on some nifty fingerwork from Marr suggests there are plenty who have come just to see him.
He doesn’t let them down, trading licks across the stage with Mouse founder and main man Isaac Brock, no slouch with a guitar himself.
Close your eyes and that shimmering jangle intro into Education could be something off, say, Hatful of Hollow.
Languid, relaxed and plain up for it, Marr throws in backing vocals and even whistling to his axe-wielding duties though crowd banter is kept to “It’s great to be here folksâ€? basics.
It’s a set dominated by tracks from that chart-topping album, We were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, the likes of Dashboard, Fire It Up and Missed The Boat all now familiar from radio play.
Pixies comparisons have been floating around, principally I think because of Brock’s scream/shout vocal which isn’t up to Black Francis standard yet, but there’s also a certain Arcade Fire ensemble vibe going on, too. The slower songs allow Marr to indulge in some beautiful chiming guitar work while when the band hit their full awesome stride on the likes of encore tracks Little Motel and Spitting Venom they make a truly wonderful racket, with the dual drummers coming into their own.
On this weekend, only a top-of-the-table performance would suffice in Liverpool. It was duly delivered.

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