Isaac Brock, Modest Mouse’s eccentric, neurotic,
death-obsessed front man, established himself as indie rock’s
resident Woody Allen years ago, and the band’s latest album,
Good News for People Who Love Bad News, further cements his
title. Brock’s fixation on mortality is still present, but
Modest Mouse’s brand of acid-fried indie is jumpier and more
anxious than ever before.

Music Reviews

Deviating sharply from 2000’s brooding and plaintive
The Moon & Antarctica, Good News takes the
rock-heavy sound of 1997’s Lonesome Crowded West and
updates it with refined production and an eclectic array of
instruments that includes organs, strings, accordion, whistles and
glockenspiel. To be sure, Modest Mouse are still a guitar-centric
group, but the new assortment of instruments adds an element of
depth that was previously lacking.

Good News’s centerpiece is the shimmering
“Float On,” Modest Mouse’s catchiest and most
accessible song since Crowded West’s “Polar
Opposites.” Over a lilting guitar riff and dreamy
atmospherics, Brock shouts and lisps his way through quirky lyrics
such as “I backed my car into a cop car the other day / Well,
he just drove off, sometimes life’s OK.”

Brock’s love for absurdist humor and oddball lyrics is on
display throughout Good News, especially on “The
Devil’s Workday,” a tongue-in-cheek take-off of Tom
Waits’s bleak New Orleans death marches. The song features
low, belching brass, twangy banjo and bleating trumpets. All the
while Brock bellows out strange, witty lines like “Gonna take
this sack of puppies and set it out to freeze / Gonna climb around
on all fours till the blood falls out my knees” and the
nonsensical chorus of “All the people that you know floating
in the river are logs.”

But Brock also shows a sober side on songs such as the serene
“Blame It on the Tetons.” With a backdrop of slow and
subdued acoustic guitar, Brock’s somber lyrics and
surprisingly endearing vocals make the singer sound
uncharacteristically vulnerable.

Throughout Good News, the marks of producers Dennis
Herring and Dave Fridmann are noticeable. Herring and Fridmann
create a cleaner and crisper sound through refined guitar tones and
denser arrangements without sacrificing Modest Mouse’s
characteristic sloppiness and rawness. Brock’s unmistakable,
lispy whine and jittery guitar style remain distinct and
untouched.

If Isaac Brock is indie rock’s Woody Allen, then Good
News for People Who Love Bad News
is his “Annie
Hall.” He’s at the top of his game, and all of the
unrefined brilliance and idiosyncrasies have come to a head in
Modest Mouse’s best record to date.

Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *