Dir. Justin Francis
Modest Mouse’s previous ventures into the realm of the visual have included decking out frontman Isaac Brock as a crow and a pop-up-book version of a slaughterhouse. “Little Motel” is crazy in a different way—crazy dramatic, crazy tedious, and crazy overdone.
This time-reversed piece is nothing new for the chronologically warped world of music videos. It depicts a night in the life of a woman who, after taking her motionless child from his hospital bed, ends up at a motel—except we see it all in rewind-mode.
As we go back in time, the tension should mount. Instead, we’re left with a muddled four minutes of monotony.
The woman walks backwards. For like, half a minute. Then she drives away, fills up at a gas station, and stares forlornly at a stack of pancakes while holding the child, who is still unmoving. You watch as precious moments of your life pass by.
Unfortunately, the action taking place doesn’t live up to the promise of Brock’s riveting vocals and the backup vocals, which combine to mourn the loss of the song’s unnamed “you.”
The arrangement is classic Modest Mouse, weaving an inexplicably entrancing melody out of synthesizer, keyboard, guitar, and muted percussion lines.
The abrupt revelation of the video leaves the viewer confused—is the child dead or alive? More importantly, do we even care?
For much of “Little Motel,” Brock croons, “That’s what I’m waiting for.” Oh, Modest Mouse. If you’re going to travel back in time at all, ditch the melodrama and take up your former quirkiness—I’ll be waiting for the return of the crow suit.
—Denise J. Xu