Tom Dunne's Music & Me: Modest Mouse and an unashamed apathy towards The Smiths 

A recent chat with Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse inevitably led to discussions of alien life and Johnny Marr 
Tom Dunne's Music & Me: Modest Mouse and an unashamed apathy towards The Smiths 

 Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse.

They are out there. It’s only a matter of where, how far away and how much more advanced. I reckon they are many, very far away and ridiculously more advanced. The big mystery will be their music tastes. I am confident there are morose teens, probably male, in the Coma Cluster right now whose lives could use a little Smiths.

The undeniable existence of alien life crashed, UFO like, into an interview I was doing this week with Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse. I am a major fan. I can remember exactly where I was when I first heard their 2004 single Float On. I still think it is one of the best tracks of the 21st century.

My interview with Isaac had been proceeding along traditional, dare I say predictable lines, until my eyes where drawn to notes I’d made for an unrelated item about the upcoming Pentagon report on UFO sightings. For reasons Freud would struggle to explain I suddenly asked, “Do you think aliens exist?”.

The interview shifted immediately. Isaac sat up, more engaged, more switched on. “You’re asking me do I believe aliens exist?” he asked.

“Yep,” I said, although I knew it was more a Tourette’s moment than any part of a structured interview. “That’s exactly what I’m asking.” “Look, I saw the Phoenix lights. My flight was put into a holding pattern, for hours, I know what I saw.“ I nodded knowingly. Frantic surreptitious Googling revealed this to be a series of widely reported UFO sightings over Phoenix, Colorado, on March 13, 1997. I was gobsmacked. I had to push.

“So just to be clear, you saw this with your own eyes?“ I asked. “Yes! Absolutely. My own eyes. I wrote about it on The Lonesome Crowded West [their 1997 album].“ I felt an immediate affinity with Isaac at this point, not that I hadn’t already. But suddenly I knew why I’d been so strongly drawn to his music.

It’s the numbers you see. There are 21.6 sextillion planets in the observable universe. Let me write that out for you: That’s 21,600,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets. A lot, in anyone’s book.

And these planets have had a lot of time. Earth is a mere 4.5 billion years old and man has only emerged for the last 6 million of that. The Universe on the other hand is 13.8 billion years old, that’s more than three times that of Earth.

To think that with that amount of time and that number of planets, that at some point, elsewhere, a string of proteins hasn’t evolved to the stage of being able to say, with three other strings of protein, “Well It’s one for the money,” is fanciful. The question is not how many aliens there are, it’s what type of guitars they use.

Speaking of guitars, in the years following Float On and their 2007, US Number One, album We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, Isaac was joined in the band, and on the road, by the one and only Johnny Marr. Marr, incredibly, has since said he preferred being in them to being in The Smiths.

I couldn’t help but wonder, given Marr’s godlike status and the fact that Brock would have been a Smiths fan long before he even started Modest Mouse if, at moments, as he looked across the stage, did he ever, just for a second think: “OMG! It’s Johnny Marr!”

 The answer was an unequivocal no. No! He never once looked up and thought “Wow, it’s the guy who wrote How Soon is Now! It’s one half of the 1980s Lennon and McCartney. And he’s in MY band, on a stage, with ME!. I raised an eyebrow.

He noted my raised eyebrow. “No, honestly,” he said. “I just don’t get doe-eyed about anyone. I never have. It’s just not something in me.” Stunned silence was all I could bring to the table at this point. I mean honestly.

We ran out of time and I was left to ruminate. Aliens, that’s a given, of course they exist. But what kind of man isn’t reduced to a whimpering hulk by the sight of Johnny Marr playing guitar?

And then I noticed the dates. Modest Mouse’s breakthrough album occurred a short while after the famous Phoenix Lights incident. Coincidence? I think not. Welcome to Earth, Mr Brock. And if you want to blend in a bit more, it is customary on Earth to be star struck around a certain Mr. J. Marr. Nanu, nanu.

  • Modest Mouse release The Golden Casket on June 25 

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