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A Long Drive: Modest Mouse - "Convenient Parking"

"Convenient Parking" embodies Isaac Brock's uniquely American fixation on the empty promises of the open road.

“Convenient Parking” (and its later sister song, “Trucker’s Atlas”) reveals The Lonesome Crowded West for what it is at its core: a driving album. The track’s repetitive lyrics, its constantly coiling tension, and its fixation on car culture place you behind the wheel on a long drive whether you’d like to be there or not. The song insistently threatens to explode into a caterwaul of unabashed rock, but it never does. It’s a sly play on Modest Mouse’s part, and it displays the attention to theme and cohesion they bring to every track on this record.

“Soon the chain reaction started in the parking lot”, Brock sings in an almost conversational tone, “Waiting to bleed onto the big streets / And bleed out onto the highways / And off to other cities / Built to store and sell these rocks / Well, weren’t you feeling real dirty sitting in your car, with nothing / Waiting to bleed onto the big streets…” And so goes the circular pattern of the verse, the type of lyrical looping that Brock often uses to great success. Fitting his lyrics into a groove, one that spins and spins on repeat, is just the right move when writing about the feeling of stagnation with which “Convenient Parking” concerns itself. Few lyricists pay such literary attention to how form reflects content, and Brock—for all his trucker sentiments—proves himself here to be a writer of real intellectualized merit.

The chorus, a simple, screamed declaration of “Con-ven-ient / Park-ing / Is way back, way back!”, has Brock dragging the syllables of each word out to their illogical extreme, before shifting quickly back into the locked circle of the verse. These bursts of release last a mere twenty seconds or so, lest the track lose its central focus on the burning desire for such release to last. Driving has always been a fixation of Brock’s, from the title of his band’s debut, This Is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About, to later lyrical investigations on the idea in “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes” and “The World at Large”. It’s the prototypical American theme, something the sprawling borders of our country allow and encourage in a way that bands in the United Kingdom can never really investigate on their home-grown records. In Brock’s vision, crisscrossing the nation’s highways seems irresistible in its beckoning promise of temporary relief and ultimate flight, but always unsatisfying and ultimately lonely. “Convenient Parking”, when it builds to the precipice of a guitar freakout and then ceases suddenly and without warning, suggests the futility of America’s open road promises. It’s an idea from which Brock will never completely shake himself free, and we get the sinking feeling that it’s true of ourselves, too.

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