Good News For People Who Love Bad News

Modest Mouse

Epic Records, 2004

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Without a doubt, the big music success story for the first half of 2004 has been Modest Mouse's remarkable run on the Billboard charts. The band spent almost ten years being indie darlings and amassing a huge cult following. Their latest release, Good News For People Who Love Bad News, doesn't stray much from their previous releases, but managed to debut near the top 20 with little publicity.

Why the success? Well, it could be that the album is simply really, really good. But basically, the best way to sum up Modest Mouse's success is timing. The band wisely released Good News For People Who Love Bad News in the spring, generally a graveyard for major music releases. To top it off, most records stores sold the album at an amazingly low price in its first week (Best Buy had a price tag of only $7.99 -- about the cost of three gallons of gas). The lack of high-profile new releases, combined with the relatively cheap price gave people who have heard of the band, but not familiar with their music incentive to make the purchase. And as a result, the album has been able to remain fairly high on the charts based on great word-of-mouth and a MTV buzz-bin status.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Good News For People Who Love Bad News has all the staples of indie-geekdom: off-tune vocals, quirky guitar arrangements, strange ornamentation (pump organs, ukulele) and hip literary references ("Bukowski"). Indie-purists may claim that Pavement did this a decade ago, but that band ripped off scores of punk bands in the '70s. Like Pavement, Modest Mouse has the knack for getting the listener to endure head-scratchers such as "Bury Me With It" in hopes that they will be treated to such ear candy as "The World At Large." The major difference between Pavement and Modest Mouse is that Modest Mouse's lyrics are typically far less abstract and thus, much warmer than most of Pavement's tunes.

Another great element of Good News For People Who Love Bad News is that even their most obscure songs have one or two poppy moments to place in your brain, only to have them pop up in your head during a boring office meeting, a trip to the grocery store or during a commute home. The melodies eventually bounce and ricochet in your cranium like a runaway superball in a racquetball court.

Good News For People Who Love Bad News doesn't have the amazing "you heard it here first" allure of their earlier releases, namely This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About (goodness, they do like long album titles). However, the album breezes with confidence and maturity. The shuffling "Bukowski," the straightforward rock of "Float On" and the syncopated, almost rap-like delivery of Isaac Brock's lyrics have a coherence that shouldn't be there, given how much they throw to the table. Much credit should be given to Eric Judy, Dann Gallucci and Benjamin Weikel for making such schizophrenic sounds sound so uniformly sweet.

The album closes with "The Good Times Are Killing Me," with the Flaming Lips backing up. It's an appropriate gesture: alt-rock's most prolific elder statesmen next to Sonic Youth, passing the alterna-torch to these soon-to-be-legends of college rock. The alternative music scene is desperately trying to crown their next idols, and Modest Mouse perfectly fits the bill. However, it's unlikely that you'll see the band take an active role in assuming the mantle for kings of alternative rock. They're too cool for that. That said, it must be comforting for the band to know that with an album as good as Good News For People Who Love Bad News, the mantle is theirs for the taking, if they so choose.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2004 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.