Welcome to Jukebox Breakdown, a column where we write about songs we love. Less about overarching themes or through-lines, Jukebox Breakdown is simply a space for our thoughts on perfect tracks.
Jukebox Breakdown: Modest Mouse – “Here It Comes”
by Chad Jewett
Despite being written for and recorded during the The Moon & Antarctica sessions, “Here It Comes” sounds, fifteen years later, like a striking signal of things to come; a miniature model of the sounds, feelings, and pop instincts that would fuel Modest Mouse’s 2004 breakthrough, Good News For People Who Love Bad News. Placed near the very end of Everywhere And His Nasty Parlour Tricks, a 2001 EP compiling various b-sides and extras from the Moon era, the song practically seems like an afterthought – an impression not entirely discouraged by the fact that “Here It Comes” consists of exactly one chord, one gently stomping beat, and one and a half melodies. Especially when contrasted with the astral hugeness and self-consciously cerebral ambition of The Moon & Antarctica, the song feels like an orphan or an idea that was rushed out of the oven before it was fully baked.
Except that “Here It Comes” more or less predicted everything that would make Modest Mouse’s next album truly great. Here we see the embattled optimism that peaks around the gloom of Good News; the easy confidence with pop melody and structure (here it’s pretty much verse-chorus-verse-chorus); the re-purposing of folk-ish acoustics, handclaps and brushed snares repurposed into a pastoral version of bedroom indie rock. “Here It Comes” was one of the few songs from Everywhere to make it on Good News-era setlists, and it’s not hard to see why. The song’s relentless central melody (first offered on acoustic guitar, then echoed by singer Isaac Brock) is practically as catchy and revelatory as what would eventually show up on “Float On” and “The World At Large”. The same goes for the surprisingly domestic vision of quiet acceptance that defines the story at the center of “Here It Comes” (“Walk to your house on my lunch break / Here it comes / Come inside and pour a drink / Here it comes / You’ll probably tell me everything you think / Here it comes”), themes to be explored even further on the lovely “Blame It On The Tetons”.
It’s the same kind of lived-in, slice-of-life realism that Modest Mouse had offered before, except the band’s earlier Northwestern Gothic is buffed away in favor of a Raymond Carver-esque sense of hushed thoughtfulness. As defeatist as the lyrics read on paper (“Why does it always seem like I’ve never won?”), in practice the sentiment is a lot more subtle than that, the sound of Brock’s longtime lovable loser narrator having a bit of fun at his own expense – in other words, the exact combination of defeat and hope that made “Float On” so immediately poignant. The song preceding “Here It Comes” on Everywhere is entitled “So Much Beauty In Dirt”, and the title applies just as well here. This careful emotional tenor is helped along by the arrangement, as spare and sparse as Modest Mouse would ever sound: more or less a pair of guitars, a severely whittled-down drum kit and the rest of the band providing stomps, claps, and a bit of harmony. It’s the literal sound of an intimate group making as much as they can out of the little they have, which, not coincidentally, seems to very much be what the song is about.