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LIVE: Modest Mouse - The Ritz, Manchester

It took a while for Washington indie heroes Modest Mouse to come back with the follow-up to their critically and commercially acclaimed fifth album, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank.

However, after eight years of waiting its eventual successor Strangers to Ourselves thankfully marked the return of a band who sound like they’ve picked up exactly where they left off.

Comeback single and former Far Out Track of the Day ‘Lampshades On Fire’ was indeed  a figurative blaze of glory and although it is unlikely to go down as their finest piece of work, it must feel like a breath of fresh air to have some new numbers in their arsenal.

But before the headliners – who fill the stage as an eight-piece at times – come to wow a sell-out crowd at Manchester’s Ritz, it is time for a support set from Minnesota indie popsters Hippo Campus.

It’s a performance that has everyone enthused but no-one overwhelmed, as the fresh-faced quartet rattle through the kind of jangly rock ‘n’ roll that wets the appetite nicely for Modest Mouse.

After an admirably quick turnaround for an outfit who have so much going on, Modest Mouse arrive to a heroes welcome, with crashing wave sounds creating a backdrop that is calm, yet slightly turbulent at the same time.

Throughout the night each of the musicians in the band prove themselves to be versatile and fully receptive to each others’ talents. But perhaps the most encapsulating thing is the layer of fuzz and distortion that sits over the top of the band’s unique brand of angst-ridden anthem – it just seems to make the whole occasion feel more organic.

The aforementioned ‘Lamshades On Fire’ comes out early and nestles perfectly alongside staples like ‘Ocean Breathes Salty’ and ‘Dashboard’.

It is well known that the impromptu recruitment of Johnny Marr as a third guitarist for We Were Dead… did no harm in bringing the band to a wider audience, and given that tonight they find themselves in his home town, it is inevitable that there are a few whispers at the back, speculating over whether he will make an appearance one last time.

It doesn’t happen and in a way we’re glad there is nothing to eclipse what is at times a mesmerising spectacle. Isaac Brock snarls his way through a packed setlist that comes complete with a bumper encore.

With perhaps the most obvious singalong ‘Float On’ out the way (not to make it sound like a formality, everyone’s arms are aloft), the audience are treated to a closing section that blends the old and the new wonderfully.

‘The World at Large’ reminds us why the opening of 2004’s Good News For People Who Love Bad News is so spine-tingling and then there is time for one last mass singalong courtesy of ‘Fire It Up’.

With new and truly impressive material now at their disposable, it is hugely encouraging to see a band that a few may have feared were petering out very much back with vengeance.  Catch them wherever you can.

Patrick Davies