Modest Mouse

    Good News for People Who Love Bad News

    7
    Epic - April 6, 2004

    For a man whose mental stability was depleting while his legal problems were mounting, it’s surprising that Isaac Brock’s first words on the new Modest Mouse long-player are "Ice Age, heat wave, can’t complain … " By the time the wistful guitar is accompanied by sentimental strings and backing vocals, it becomes apparent that Brock set out to write something deliberately optimistic. This may not be such "good news" for Modest Mouse fanatics who crave the disassociated, meandering guitar and lyrics of a tortured white-trash sage that have characterized the band’s past efforts. The thumping drums and driving melody of the first single, "Float On," are easier to imagine blasting in the middle of a freshman keg-stand than a brooding all-night drive. In fact, the best moments on Good News For People Who Love Bad News are sentimental summer jams.

     

    For those who just want to hear the same ol’ Modest Mouse, it’s readily available throughout the middle of the record, albeit in a form so watered down only the lowest bottom feeders would find it acceptable. Brock’s preoccupations are still God, Satan and the atmosphere ("Bukowski" and "The Devil’s Workday"). But his limited scope here seems provoked more by a lack of something else to say rather than by obsessions so basic they must be expressed. Brock’s signature cheap guitar harmonics ring false in the context of Dennis Herring’s lush production, and the horn interludes seem completely off.

     

    If it were not for album closer "The Good Times Are Killing Me," the record would add up to an amazing seven-inch with an LP of throwaways tacked on. The loose acoustic guitar and stoner bongos that turn into tight Flaming Lips fantasy orchestration epitomizes the thrift-store meets frat-row vibe that makes the standouts both poignant and universal. Good news for people who love Corona and sing-alongs, bad news for those who rely on Modest Mouse to get them through more than the sunny months.

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