Modest Mouse – Good News for People Who Love Bad News

Modest MouseGood News for People Who Love Bad News (Sony/Epic)

“As life gets longer / Awful feels softer / Well it feels pretty soft to me.” When Isaac Brock admits that things are starting to brighten in the chorus of “The View,” his nasal, post-punk strain sounds more like hopeful Wayne Coyne than aggressive Wayne Cramer. “Satin in a Coffin,” the very next track, bases it’s structure on the lyric “Are you dead? / Or are you sleeping? / God, I sure hope you are dead.” Go figure.

The key to Good News for People Who Love Bad News is to ignore expectations. Even the buzz around Modest Mouse’s latest album is surprising, as anyone who’s seen commercials for the new album or heard first single “Float On” on commercial radio will attest. Despite claims that this is Modest Mouse’s most accessible record to date, which it is, it’s still by no means the type of album that should logically smash through mainstream success. What amounts to traditional songs wind up arriving in bizarre form—I’m not sure I can take any song named “Blame It on the Tetons” seriously, but it’s hard to deny Brock when the words sound so sincere.

“Float On” and “The View” display a brilliantly optimistic side of the band, the latter schizophrenically alternating Gang of Four verses and shimmering choruses complete with delayed guitars and hearty backup vocals. Brock has noted that the new direction the band head in on Good News was a conscious decision, albeit one that resulted more from a sense of defeat—the world is shit, lamenting over it won’t help—rather then any changes in polarity. Good News picks at the same themes that Modest Mouse have always concentrated on—humanity, mortality, religion—but the maturation that began musically on The Moon and Antarctica continues here and is met with lyrics that are indicative of at least a slight skepticism and perhaps the beginning of a change of heart for one of indie’s most stereotypically pessimistic frontmen. That said, this is far from a perfect effort. “Bukowski” and “Dance Hall” are draining, and “This Devil’s Workday” drives the faux-Waits sound into the ground.

It seems Brock is beginning to realize that it’s okay to admit the shortcomings of your youth, many great songwriters have written many great songs about figuring out the complexities of life with age. “The Good Times are Killing Me” drives perhaps the final nail in the coffin of the old Modest Mouse and the band’s oft-publicized love of drink and drugs. With help from The Flaming Lips, “The Good Times are Killing Me” blows like a sweet breeze. When Brock sings that he’s “Fed up with all that LSD / Need more sleep than coke or methamphetamines / Late nights with warm, warm whiskey / I guess the good times they were all just killing me,” he sounds completely satisfied and absolutely convincing.

Out of all of the indie-rock elder statesmen [Elder? They’ve only been around since the mid-90s – Ed.], it’s shocking that Isaac Brock and Modest Mouse have become the group best poised to step into another class of band. Good News for People Who Love Bad News shows a band growing, and more importantly, reflects a songwriter who is shedding the insecurities of youth. Call it somewhat of an awkward phase, but seeing Isaac Brock step into such an unexpected role as displayed in the warmth of Good News is a testament to what makes music so constantly gratifying and suprising.

24 thoughts on “Modest Mouse – Good News for People Who Love Bad News”

  1. “indie-rock elder statesmen [Elder? They’ve only been around since the mid-90s – Ed.], it’s shocking”

    did someone at this website insert that?? sure the writer thanks you.

  2. I’m really liking the new album. ‘The Moon…’ was great but it’s too depressing to listen to very often. I find the new one to be pretty relaxing. I’m getting old but Isaac is also…

  3. Definitely a good release, but I still prefer earlier stuff like Lonsome Crowded West to this slicker sound.

  4. Yeah, I still prefer “Lonesome Crowded West” to this album, but still, “World at Large” and “Float On” I think are two of the best songs they’ve ever done.

  5. Plus it’s still full of great lines, like:

    “Life handed us a paycheck, we said, ‘we worked harder than that!'”

    “And if it takes shit to make bliss, I’ve lived pretty blissfully”

  6. I also like the new album, but I still like Brock’s other project better. That’s just me.

    Tom, I enjoy your reviews, but I need to point out – “shimmering choruses” ? – for shame. :

  7. this cd is amazing along with the lonesome crowded west and building something out of nothing.fuck it, all their albums are amazing. i can’t stop listening to it, brock is my hero.

  8. I loved the album from beginning to end…it reminds me of good times…sneaking out to hang at Smart Bar

  9. what about that video eh? another single planned, too. sold out shows…a few happy songs…lots of press.

    any longtime fans resent the direction they’re taking?

    can we blame the guys? i mean heck, they’re talented, and they deserve the recognition.

    i interviewed isaac for a Northern California music publication here in San Jose (called Zero, check it out at http://www.zeromag.com), and he seemed genuinely driven by the music-making process and interested in the creativity/quality of the final product, and totally apathetic toward press coverage/sales/etc.

    i give him props for that, and that’s assuredly what keeps him writing interesting songs.

    what does anybody else think?

  10. The only bad thing about good bands selling lots of records is that they no longer play in cool little clubs but in big, less intimate venues. Other than that, as long as they are not compromising their music, let them lots of records. According to [url=http://www.hitsdailydouble.com/]Hits Daily Double[/url], for the week of 4/26/2004, Good News was the 30th best selling record, outselling Aerosmith, Nickleback, Beyonce and Britney.

  11. Yeah, I checked the Billboard list in the last Rolling Stone, and the new cd was pretty far up there on the chart. They’re doing better than they ever have.

    But you’re right about the intimite venues. That’s where I saw them the first couple times. Obviously, their first was the best show, but as the venues got bigger, my enjoyment declined.

    I’d still see them again, but it’s certainly not the same experience, and I don’t plan on another small venue MM show for a little while.

    The last show they played at the local venue—they’d become very popular in these parts—was pretty rough. They’d just come off a long bigger venue tour, and made a deal to play at this little club, the Chameleon. It was packed, maybe sold out. The band came on two hours late, Isaac had consumed a bottle of whisky, and he played all wrong notes the whole night and finally left the stage with an awful, high pitched feedback noise coming from his microphones that continued for about 5 minutes before stage crew shut it off.

  12. Yeah, Lonesome… is my favorite too. The spazzy energy and rawness of that album are incredible. I love everything though, like you Trailertrash. Brock is amazing. It’s funny…I have this relationship with Modest Mouse where I hear certain stuff by them and and I HATE it. Then it becomes my favorite album/song/band. I wish I’d seen them on the Lonesome tour… Arg… Now it’s just places like the house of blues and the shows are always too packed.

  13. I still don’t understand what people see in this band?!?! Their first record was ok….but it seems as if, you gain cool indie-rock points if you like them. It’s what they call the band you must like because they are “cool” This is the band that every and I mean every single jaded rock critic has to shower praise on. I read an article that said that Modest Mouse have no influences therefore, they have originality. Well, you know what every band has an influence, and no rock bands since forever have been original. It’s a copy of a copy of a copy. Nothing regenerates. So, if Modest Mouse finally, after all these years, are a staple on modern rock stations, so be it, at least I don’t have to hear Nickelback or Linkin Park. But for now…

    I’ll just listen to Pavement and Slint records instead. And while I’m still avoiding Modest Mouse, I’ll just listen to the Pixies or David Byrne.

  14. “new lyrical fascinations with Waits-ian topics death and the devil” Um. I can think of about a dozen Modest Mouse songs about death and the devil just off the top of my head: in fact, MOST of “The Moon And Antarctica” is about death and infinity and whatnot. These are hardly “new lyrical fascinations.”

  15. I think the lyrics in this CD are amazing. Although I still like their older stuff(i.e.;stuff from “The Moon and Antartica”, “The Lonesome Crowded West”, “This is a long drive for someone with nothing to think about” . . .etc), but I think this CD shows growth. Basically, Yeah this place is fucking shit and life isn’t easy but why sit here and cry over it? Fuck it I’m just gonna do what I WANT to do! Reguardless. Every song is phenomenal.

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