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The Meaning of Modest Mouse’s “Float On”

“Float On” is one of the only happy songs that Modest Mouse has. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence, then, that it’s also the band’s most popular song by far.

Released in 2004 as the lead single from their acclaimed fourth album Good News For People Who Love Bad News, “Float On” tackles the rather simple theme of trekking onward and not giving up during hard times.

The song topped the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart and peaked at number 68 on the Hot 100. It was nominated for “Best Rock Song” at the Grammys but it lost out to U2’s “Vertigo”.

In an interview with The A.V. Club published not long after the album’s release, frontman and songwriter Issac Brock talked about the positivity of “Float On”, and why he made a conscious effort to write a feelgood song:

It was a completely conscious thing. I was just kind of fed up with how bad shit had been going, and how dark everything was, with bad news coming from everywhere. Our president [George W. Bush] is just a fucking daily dose of bad news! Then you’ve got the well-intentioned scientists telling us that everything is fucked.

I just want to feel good for a day. I’d had some friends die, and with Jeremy kind of losing it… After we got out of that dark spot with everything melting down with the band, I just wanted to make a positive record. I think we managed to make a quarter of the record positive, and the rest is either kind of dark or more just relaxing into things being how they are, resigned.

Issac Brock on the meaning of “Float On”.

The Jeremy that Issac refers to is Jeremiah Green, the founding drummer of Modest Mouse who briefly left the band in 2003 to deal with his mental health. He rejoined in 2004, shortly after the release of Good News, and remains the drummer today.

While many of the band’s hardcore fans do not consider “Float On” to be one of the best Modest Mouse songs, there are countless others who love this song and have it on repeat constantly.

“Float On” Lyrics Meaning

The song opens with a short, bouncy guitar and drum into before Brock comes in with the first verse, sung in his best fake-happy tone:

I backed my car into a cop car the other day
Well, he just drove off, sometimes life’s okay
I ran my mouth off a bit too much, oh, what did I say?
Well, you just laughed it off, it was all okay

First verse to “Float On” by Modest Mouse.

Brock describes a few things that happened in his life that should have had consequences, but he got off scot-free instead.

This includes backing into a cop car, who apparently didn’t notice or mind, and running his mouth to a friend who also didn’t seem to mind.

We wonder if Brock’s mama told him there’d be “Days Like This”?

From there, we float into the first chorus:

And we’ll all float on, okay
And we’ll all float on, okay
And we’ll all float on, okay
And we’ll all float on anyway, well

Chorus to “Float On” by Modest Mouse.

Whether you like it or not, life will go on so you might as well keep your head up and roll with the punches.

In the second verse, Brock sings not of times he got lucky, but of times when things went wrong:

A fake Jamaican took every last dime with that scam
It was worth it just to learn some sleight of hand
Bad news comes, don’t you worry even when it lands
Good news will work its way to all them plans
We both got fired on exactly the same day
Well, we’ll float on, good news is on the way

Second verse to “Float On” by Modest Mouse.

Issac refers to the common phishing scam that involves a message from a Jamaican prince who wants to wire you money, and simply needs all your bank information to do so. He says he lost all of his money to this, but it was worth it to learn his lesson.

When bad news comes, Brock sings, don’t worry because there is good news coming soon.

Him and his friend were fired on the same day, but it’s all good because they’ll float on and hear some good news soon enough.

Between this verse and the chorus, there are some lyrics sung behind the music, and they are as follows:

Bring it on, here we are, win or lose, win or lose
Win or lose, win or lose, win or lose, win or lose
Win or lose, win or lose, I can’t say

Brock sings quietly in the background of “Float On”.

Then, we get another chorus, followed by the bridge:

Already, we’ll all float on
No, don’t you worry, we’ll all float on, alright
Already, we’ll all float on, alright
Don’t worry, we’ll all float on

First part of bridge to “Float On” by Modest Mouse.

The meaning here is straightforward within the context of the song, and the same can be said about the lyrics that follow after a short instrumental break:

(Alright, already) And we’ll all float on
Alright, already, we’ll all float on, alright
Don’t worry, even if things end up a bit too heavy
We’ll all float on
Alright, already, we’ll all float on[I’m told “don’t function” and listen everyday]
Alright, already, we’ll all float on[The worlds’ still going strong]
Okay, don’t worry, we’ll all float on[I lose hair]
Even if things get heavy, we’ll all float on[while living here]
Alright, already, we’ll all float on (Alright!)[float on]
Now don’t you worry, we’ll all float on (Alright!)
We’ll all float on

Outro to “Float On” by Modest Mouse.

Modest Mouse paired “Float On” with a creative music video that portrays the song in the style of a pop-up book, with the band dressed in turn of the century style clothing.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Modest Mouse without plenty of trippy editing.

Watch the video for “Float On” below.