Music

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.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image