bad news comes don't you worry
On January 29 of this past year, Sean Michaels first posted this track on said the gramophone, and he had this to say about it at the time:
Forget the day-by-day schedule, I just heard this track and can't keep it to myself - Modest Mouse's "Float On." The new single from their upcoming album, and the best thing they've ever done, it seems to me. The guitars and drums jangle and flip in the background, happy to float on, with Isaac Brock squawking and rhyming in the front. It's like an amazing bird party that humans are never invited to, where there are strange bird drinks and strange bird rock'n'roll dances. And a river. And love. But you MUST TURN IT UP LOUD SO THE DRUMS AND BASS MAKE YOU CRAZY. holymoly! dan!!
It's worth noting that this post continued to collect comments through the summer, and that's not surprising given the rollercoaster ride that Modest Mouse has taken on their way to crossover success. The progression of the comments themselves is intriguing, beginning with the initial excitement over the song, the surprise turning to borderline backlash when it became a hit, and the evolving debate over the band in the wake of their newfound popularity. It's a textbook example of reaction to indie-gone-mainstream.
I owned a few Modest Mouse cd's prior to this year's "breakthrough" Good News For People Who Love Bad News LP, and I liked them all right. Good News wasn't exactly revelatory for me, but I've certainly enjoyed it. After four years, Isaac Brock & Co. had tightened things up & delivered a solid album, but I never would have guessed that it would get bandied about by Vh1's collective of fundits. But this anthemic-yet-breezy & carefree track proved that it only takes one song (and a big f**kin' record company) to take something underground & bring it out into the blinding light of media overexposure. Don't forget, they're coming soon to an O.C. near you!
MOV Modest Mouse - "Float On" video (23.3mb)
Of course, it helped that "Float On" had a friggin' amazing video to go along with it. Scott Stereogum posted about it back on April Fool's Day, which somehow seems very appropriate. Director Christoper Mills previously created a similar 2D cardboard-cutout fantasy world in Broken Social Scene's video for "Stars & Sons" as well as "PDA" for NYC's Interpol.
In Modest Mouse's video, the camera is on amphetamines, zooming around at a breakneck pace & barely giving the viewer enough time to figure out what the hell is going on. It's visually stunning, yet it maintains a kind of classic lo-fi aesthetic that makes it beautiful, despite all the imagery of slaughtered sheep. MTV.com has an informative little feature on how Mills made the video that is worth checking out, and the Quicktime video above is courtesy of Revolver Films, who I wrote more about back in September.
As 2004 comes to a close, "Float On" is of course on many year-end lists. It ranks #17 on Pitchfork's singles list, as Jason Crock explains:
Have you heard that new band Modest Mouse?" Statements like that twisted even the most non-elitist fan's visage as the universe burped and "Float On" somehow slipped to the top of Billboard's modern rock charts. But when they've written such a cheerful radio-perfect bounce without losing the quirks of the sound they've worked toward perfecting for years, why do anything but give credit where it's due? After all that the band went through to put out the Good News LP, it seems Isaac Brock is seeing some returns on his Karma Payment Plan, and optimism suits him well.
Stylus ranks it at #14, and according to Peter Funk:
Somehow or another, this one slipped by the gatekeepers. You know, the guys that wear charcoal grey suits with straight black ties over stiff white shirts that prevent all music with imagination from reaching the masses. Seriously, how did this become a hit? How did Good News For People Who Love Bad News turn Modest Mouse into a household rockin’ name? I don’t think anyone can argue that Isaac Brock has a traditionally beautiful voice or that the echo chamber honk of a guitar hook that “Float On” is built around is something usually heard on MTV. But there’s an irresistible charm to “Float On”, a bouncy beat mated to a sing-a-long chorus that makes you want to root for these guys to succeed. And, this time, they did.
ETA: More Pitchfork wisdom from today's albums list, via Michael Idov:
That Modest Mouse were able to bring "Float On" so perilously close to Summer Anthem status is, first and foremost, a fantastic f**k-you to the resilient "American Idol" notions of a proper pop vocal. Mr. Brock has a gloriously bad voice (there's one SNL appearance that wasn't lip-synced) but an amazingly brave and weirdly festive one; it's like vomiting confetti. It takes a lot to graze the top 20 with an album backloaded with gruff ballads and smuggling a hard-on for Tom Waits; it takes even more to back it up with a major push, so cheers to Sony or whomever.
Track 01: The Arcade Fire - "Wake Up"
Track 02: Frou Frou - "Let Go"
Track 03: The Walkmen - "The Rat"
Track 04: Interpol - "C'mere"
Track 05: Franz Ferdinand - "Jacqueline"
Track 06: The Killers - "Somebody Told Me"
Track 07: Junior Boys - "Bellona"
Track 08: Kings of Convenience - "I'd Rather Dance With You"
Track 09: The Go! Team - "Bottle Rocket"
Track 10: Belle & Sebastian - "Your Cover's Blown"
Track 11: TV on the Radio - "The Wrong Way"
Track 12: Metric - "Succexy"
Track 13: The Fiery Furnaces - "Tropical Iceland" (single version)
Track 14: Apostle of Hustle - "Energy of Death"
Track 15: The Mountain Goats - "Palmcorder Yajna"
Track 16: A.C. Newman - "On The Table"