Modest Mouse review

Saturday, May 8th, 2004 @ 5:43 am | Music

This was intended for publication elsewhere, but for various reasons that didn’t happen. I’d hate to waste a good review, so I’m presenting it here, like I was going to do anyway :-)

Modest Mouse
Good News for People Who Love Bad News
5 out of 5 stars

Since their 1997 breakthrough album, The Lonesome Crowded West, Modest Mouse has amassed a rabidly devoted following. Their quixotic music and stream of consciousness lyrics have earned them many fans, but have also left just as many people scratching their heads, wondering what the big deal is.

Wonder no more. Good News for People Who Love Bad News represents a giant musical leap forward for Modest Mouse. This album is to Modest Mouse what Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots was to the Flaming Lips, or what Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was to Wilco; a work of broadened musical horizons and newfound maturity that will define the band for the rest of their career.

Good News is also the first Modest Mouse album for people who aren’t Modest Mouse fans. Listeners who were captivated by the band’s genius, but turned off by their obvious musical eccentricities, will find Good News to be much more palatable and accessible. Isaac Brock’s trademark sing-song delivery and screamo vocals - which most casual listeners found annoying - are largely gone here. The resulting music is still distinctive Modest Mouse, minus the rough edges that categorized their indie label output.

Good News reaches the musical nadir that 2000’s The Moon and Antarctica aspired to, but narrowly missed. As usual, Modest Mouse touches on a wide variety of musical styles and influences. Listen closely, and you’ll hear hints of white-boy funk, demented Appalachia, and symphonic pop. The production is lush, and the instrumentation runs the gamut from guitar and standup bass to mellotron, ukulele, accordion and fiddle; with special appearances from members of the Flaming Lips and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Yet, Good News manages to remain a cohesive work throughout, and clocks in at a reasonably listenable 50 minutes.

Modest Mouse’s commercial profile will undoubtedly increase with this album; the first single, “Float On” is already getting mainstream radio airplay, and visible commercial spots have been seen on late-evening cable TV. With this album, Modest Mouse has officially passed the stage of hip indie band into alternative rock prominence. Good News offers something for long-time fans and new listeners alike, and will likely rank among 2004’s best albums.

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