It's hard to pinpoint the exact moment Modest Mouse started sounding like a real band. For the longest time, singer-songwriter Isaac Brock seemed to exist solely to defy the established rules, forging forward on sheer momentum and ingenuity. Even Pavement looked relatively ordinary in comparison to the band's early releases like 1996's This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About and 1997's The Lonesome Crowded West. But on Good News for People Who Love Bad News, the frontman sounds like he's finally touching the earth, and the band--minus founding member and drummer Jeremiah Green--follows suit. A relaxed mood prevails, not so much in volume but in attitude. On the follow-up to the group's 2000 major label debut, The Moon & Antarctica, big sloppy melodies battle it out with brass on punky epics like "Float On" and "The Ocean Breathes Salty." The lyrics are simpler, the arrangements tamer, but the vitality remains. The prevailing mood is that Modest Mouse has pulled off something extraordinary here: a well-rounded, lovable record that doesn't sound anything like David Gray.
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. Read more ›
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