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I’ll admit it, I was a latecomer to Modest Mouse. My first introduction to Issac Brock’s genius was their classic, “The Moon and Antartica”, and it changed how I though of music. It’s the type of album that has the power to do that sort of thing.
Four long year later, and Modest Mouse is back with a long awaited follow up. They came out with the EP ” Everywhere and His Nasty Parlour Tricks” and the singles collection “Sad Sappy Sucker” in 2001, but neither of those discs lived up to albums like “The Moon and Antartica” and “The Lonesome Crowded West”. So, in the first half of this decade, it was easy to forget about what a great band Modest Mouse really are. Now, they’ve finally released a new album, and it serves as a great reminder of how talented Issac Brock is.
“Good News for People Who Love Bad News” starts off in fine form. After a short ‘Horn Intro’, it moves on to the excellent ‘The World at Large’, with it’s catch “Ba-ba-ba’s, and a nice little guitar riff, the kind that Modest Mouse do best. Next is the obvious single, ‘Float On’. It’s far more poppy than anything they’ve done in the past, but in this case change is a good thing. It’s one of my all time favorites. After that is the second single, ‘Ocean Breathes Salty’, this is currently my favorite song on the album, with it’s blissful, organ driven chorus.
The first section of the album ends with the pointless, twelve second, ‘Dig Your Grave’. But the next section starts out as strong as the first on, with a traditional, Modest Mouse rocker, ‘Bury Me With It’. Then there’s a Tom Waits inspired three song set. Starting out with the insane, freakout, ‘Dance Hall’, then the slow accoustic, accordian driven, ‘Bukowski’, which contains some of the best lyrics Brock has ever written, and lastly ‘The Devil’s Workday’. Despite the obvious Tom Waits influence, these songs still remain stricktly Modest Mouse, and don’t rip him off in any way.
The last seven songs contiue, just as strong as the rest of the album, from the uncontrolably catchy, ‘The View’ to the slow and soft, ‘Blame it on the Tetons’, and the rocking ‘Black Cadillacs’. The album ends on a great note, with fellow vetran indie rockers, the Flaming Lips helping out on ‘The Good Times are Killing Me’.
Although I can’t say it’s any better than “The Moon and Antartica”, “Good News for People Who Love Bad News” is certianly no worse, it’s simply another classic album from Modest Mouse.
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This is one of the more remarkable albums that I have heard in the past couple of years. I previously had really loved THE MOON AND ANARCTICA, and though I might still have a slight preference for that album, GOOD NEWS FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE BAD NEWS clearly establish Modest Mouse as one of the best and certainly one of the most unique bands working in music today. Modest Mouse is one of those bands you know has to be comprised by a bunch of indiscriminate music fans. Hints of an astonishing range of musical artists seem to peek out from behind their various songs. I’m constantly being reminded by bits of their songs of artists as diverse as the Pixies, Talking Heads, Radiohead, Tom Waits, Pere Ubu, Yo La Tenga, Sam Phillips, and Built to Spill, as wall as a host of eighties New Wave bands. They have obviously internalized a lot of music and are capable of drawing from those resources as needed to create some grippingly exciting new songs. Sometimes the results would be jarring if they were so amazingly successful. For instance, how many bands manage to include a synthesizer and a banjo on the same song? They are constantly bringing in unexpected instruments or sounds that are not common to rock. I should also add that while a Pacific Northwest band, they really don’t sound like a product of that region. The Seattle and Portland bands, for instance, do not seem to have exerted an especially large influence.
Being eclectic is not a guarantee of being especially good. In fact, it could lead to a dissipation of creative energies into such a variety of directions that a band could lack any musical focus whatsoever. Luckily, Modest Mouse manages to be amazingly musical while crafting startling songs. The musicality, the marvelous lyrics, the passionate vocals, and the hooks make every song memorable. And virtually every song is indeed a delight. As with other exceptional albums (as opposed to albums that contain a few good singles with less numbers filling out the disc), you don’t want any of the songs to end, and yet when they do and the next song begins, you are equally as content with it. I’ll be honest: over the past eight or nine years, I have sometimes felt that rock was in danger of becoming stale and uninteresting, and that the creativity that drove the genre in the sixties, the late seventies, and the eighties was waning. But bands like Modest Mouse are managing to give me hope once again.
Well, I guess I’m not an “old” old-school MM fan, I’ve never seen them live but I started with Lonesome Crowded West in High School, maybe ’98-ish, then got their older stuff too. Lonesome Crowded West and This is a Long Drive took me a while to get into but eventually become some of my favorites. So I’ve been around a while I guess. Then this CD came out. Well, I dig it. I think old-school MM fans are pretty defensive about their favorite band, and don’t like to see them do anything that has a little more polish or immediate likeability to it. But really this CD is barely more accessible than any of their previous albums. In fact, I think it’s just as impossible to get into for fans of polished pop as any of their previous would be. It seems like Modest Mouse is just checking out some new possible sounds. There’s nothing wrong with adding horns or keyboards.
As for the lyrics, people have complained that this album lacks the lyrical depth of previous albums, and that may be I guess. But I don’t really think MM was ever that deep lyrically. Their lyrics on previous albums were never uninteresting, but they sure were dumb sometimes (like Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine). Just because Brock screams a lot doesn’t mean he’s a poet (not that poets are that great).
Anyway, I dig this CD. There’s certainly nothing to complain about. I kind of like the fact that MM tried making a nice, polished CD like this, to contrast their abrasive style. I notice people using the word “overproduced” a lot, which seems to mean “Album that sounds too good for me to enjoy.” I kind of like to listen to an album that sounds nice and has good songs. I think it’s cool that pretty underground bands like the Flaming Lips, Modest Mouse, Belle & Sebastian or whatever started making polished CDs and pouring on effects and keyboards and stuff. At least then you get to know what it sounds like when good songwriters get to use all that expensive equipment.
But then again I’m not very cool.
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