Monday, September 21, 2009

Heath Ledger Earns Posthumous Award from PETA

In January of 2007, one year before his passing, actor Heath Ledger and Isaac Brock from the alternative rock band Modest Mouse collaborated on a video for “King Rat”, one of the songs on the Mouse’s recently released EP "No One's First and You're Next". During the time between the video’s conception and Ledger’s death, the idea was largely cultivated, but unfinished. With Brock’s blessing, the video has finally been completed and released.

Ledger had deep sensitivity regarding the cruelty of the whaling trade, and was a member of Australia’s Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s advisory board. Australia has had problems for many years with illegal whaling, particularly with ships coming from Japan. PETA has granted Ledger with the “Compassionate Artist” award for August, 2009 for his work on this video, which provides frank insight into the brutality of this disturbing practice.

The animated “King Rat” video continues Modest Mouse’s recent trend of nautically themed videos. It illustrates a day in the life of a whaler, but with roles reversed: the whaler is, in fact a whale. Soon we find the most dangerous game in the water – humans. The whale whaler happily harpoons men, and then festoons the ship with festive garlands to delight in the day’s successes. It may remind one of a celebratory steak dinner or even Thanksgiving – and raising a glass in a cheerful toast over a table bearing the remains of some defenseless animal.

A sample of the lyrics shows the connection between the song and the issue:

And you know you know you know it all went wrong.
And you know you know you know it was all wrong.

Deep Water, Deep Water
Senseless Denial
I went down like a rag doll as you would, child
Deep Water, Deep Water
Senseless Denial
I went down like a rag doll as you would, child

The video is explicit, but delivered more artfully and palatably through animation than, say, real whaling footage. The message is clear, and received without any “in your face” gore that might turn off more delicate viewers. It’s a tad reminiscent of Radiohead’s 1997 Paranoid Android video, as it was another tale of karma and ultimate retribution with a twinge of that ooky feeling.

(Avid fisherman) Brock gets an honorable mention by PETA here, too – though he has previously admitted in great detail how he rather enjoyed a former job cleaning out a meat truck. “King Rat” is arguably one of the strongest tunes of the eight tracks on the EP, combining his Frank Black-esque yelps, a brass section and some inspired tempo changes. Fisherman or no, Brock and the boys’ latest work deserves a listen – as do the rest of their albums.

Profits from downloads of the iTunes video for "King Rat" for the first month after release will go toward the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Watch it: HERE

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