Modest Mouse first came to my attention as part of the wonderfully extensive collection of mp3s in the office of Berkeley's finest intentionally humorous publication, The Heuristic Squelch. The legendary Stephen Handley had included a Modest Mouse folder in the Indie Rock directory (other categories included "(not so) idm" [less intellectual electronica] and "(not so) hip hop" [MC Hammer, Young MC, etc.]), though I think, at the time, it only contained "Out of Gas."
At first, I really wasn't a fan. The lead singer's voice is really a lot like salt and vinegar potato chips. It's harsh and mostly irritating at first, but once your senses adjust, you realize the wonderfulness of it, and when you do realize that, you just want more and more of it. Most singers wouldn't get away with screeching lines like, "I'm gonna go to Alaska, I'm gonna get off scot fucking free!", but somehow, when the Modest Mouse guy does, it just sounds right
That happened to me when I heard "Heart Cooks Brain" on a Matador Records sampler. I instantly repeated the track, then repeated it again. I liked the strained yells at the beginning of the song, the extremely catchy riff, but also the way the voice merged into a sweet falsetto during the verses. And, as an English major, of course, I loved the metaphors.
During the song, the brain-heart relationship is repeatedly analogized. First the brain is a burger, and the heart is the coal, cooking said burger. Later, the brain is a cliff, and the heart becomes a bitter buffalo. My favorite analogy comes when Modest Mouse compares the brain to a weak heart, while the heart itself is the "long stairs." Such poetic chutzpah, Modest Mouse!
Anyway, "Heart Cooks Brain" made me discover the glory of Modest Mouse, and led to my later embracing of "Third Planet," "Bankrupt on Selling," and especially "Custom Concern," all of which interested parties should seek out at their local record stores and/or mp3-acquisition-type-internet places.