steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion

Modest Mouse

"Good News For People Who Love Bad News" CD

Epic Records

Genres: indie rock

band website

Sep 26 - Oct 3 2004

"Float On" may have become a hit, but it is not this album's best song.  Good News For People Who Love Bad News, Modest Mouse's long-awaited 2004 album, is filled with catchy, readily accessible rock tunes - different but not far off from their previous work - but it isn't their best record.  It is certainly an ambitious release, with a fashionable record design and contributions by The Dirty Dozen Brass Band and The Flaming Lips. And for the most part, it seems as if Epic Records got what they wanted from it - a successful radio single for the angst-ridden masses, as well as (presumably) decent album sales.  Congratulations are certainly order, since Modest Mouse did this all without compromising their creative vision or musical ideals.  But still, The Moon and Antarctica this ain't.

I was stricken with surprise upon my third listen of Good News when I found myself most impressed by the album's eleventh track, "Satin in a Coffin."  This was an unusual departure from the band's normal fare - banjo and organ were used to create a bizarre, Modest Mouse take on bluegrass music.  Despite its unique convention, though, the song was remarkably listenable - catchy to an extreme level, and successful mostly due to its refusal to fulfill expectations.  Other changes of pace for the band include the Squirrel Nut Zippers-esque jazz-warpery of "This Devil's Workday" and the synthy liteness of Flaming Lips collaboration "The Good Times Are Killing Me".  "Ocean Breathes Salty" and "Dig Your Grave," meanwhile, are vintage Modest Mouse rock, with that familiar jerky, tense structure we've all come to love (think "Never Ending Math Equation" and "All Night Diner").  Other songs recall the band's calmer moments, including "Bukowski" and the incredibly infectious "Blame It On The Tetons" (which are both comparable to The Moon and Antarctica's quieter songs.)

As for "Float On," well - I'm sure you've already heard it.  Although far from terrible, it doesn't really seem particularly special - I found it a bit tricky to "get into", and perhaps slightly too repetitive for its own good, but there's definitely a sweeping charm there.

Good News For People Who Love Bad News is not a letdown, but I'm not entirely satisfied with it.  It is certainly accessible enough, though it doesn't seem to vary from the defined Modest Mouse sound enough.  However, it is always a pleasure to hear new material from Isaac Brock and co., and both fans and newcomers should find plenty to enjoy here.  Whether this album remains in my disc rotation for months on end remains to be seen, but I can definitely see myself humming these songs tomorrow.


Matt Shimmer

[Vitals: 16 tracks, distributed everywhere, released 2004]