Modest Mouse 

Good News for People Who Love Bad News

Well, Isaac Brock still sounds a lot like Isaac Brock on Good News for People Who Love Bad News, Modest Mouse's newest record. The group leader still intones a nasal disaffection in his vocals, a depressive tone in his lyrics, and a secret crush on the Beefhearts and Waitses of the universe in his MO. I mean, c'mon, he offers history's worst Waits impression on "The Devil's Work Day" (right down to the cacophonous banjo and horns) and even names a song "Bukowski," a sure Barfly-stalking sign that the assholes and control freaks he sings about will always bug him to no end.

The difference now is that the band mostly veils Brock's eternal case of the indie-rock grumpy-ass flu, rather than reflect it in all its surrealist, bent-and-twisted glory (best captured on the band's minimalist masterpiece The Lonesome Crowded West). Instead of the usual guitar tones splintering and arrangements toeing the line between white-boy funk and high-school starter punk, Good News is a more disciplined and earthy pop mess, fostered by Camper Van Beethoven's old producer Dennis Herring. When Brock makes scapegoats out of them there mountains on "Blame It on the Tetons," he sounds profound -- the Western piano, acoustic splendor, and (get this) remorseful, real singing voice sell that point. When he kisses a lousy day goodbye on "Float On," a Clash-style bass thump and beautiful lead riff buoys his sarcastic hope. And who cares, really, about the substance of "World at Large" and "The Good Times Are Killing Me"? Just concentrate on the orchestral noises that drive the proceedings.

Now, the album's shits-and-giggles title isn't entirely truth in advertising. Brock can't help but indulge in his dissonant iconography a little too much at times -- "Bury Me with It" is a lazy exercise in "This is what they all expect us to do," right down to the Barney Gumble crooning and regurgitated "Out of Gas" bass. So we'll just call this effort Good Enough News, a sign that Modest Mouse has the ambition to rise above a once-brilliant shtick and make Brock's irony more tactile.


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