Review Summary: Done, done, done with all the fuck, fuck, fucking around? Not really. Accessible on one hand, quirkier than ever on the other.
Ah, Modest Mouse. Another beloved indie band sucked right into the filthy realms of mainstream. How many times exactly have we heard this story? A lot. In this case, after four long years that followed The Moon & Antarctica
, generally considered to be Modest Mouse's masterpiece, their second major label release finally allowed them to gain the deserved fame. But here's the fun part: while at times it serves almost like a polar opposite to the aforementioned album, GNFPWLBN
stands in the same league quality wise.
Lost the plot
The greatest thing about this album is its consistency. Excluding maybe 'Dance Hall,' funny at first but getting dull fairly quickly, and pointless 'Interlude (Milo)' there is virtually no filler in here and all the songs actually grow on you. Most of them may appear as simple, or even simplistic when compared to some of MM's older stuff; structureless epics from their early years are entirely done with here, and only one song, a sweet ballad named 'Blame It On The Tetons,' goes over the 5 minutes mark. But this does not necessarily have to be a bad thing, seeing how 'Truckers Atlas' or 'The Stars Are Projectors,' though both beginning promisingly, were actually overlong and tiresome; in here the structures are tight, but that's not exactly to say they are poppy and bland. In fact, some of them manage to be both punchy and universally catchy at the same time; look no further than 'Float On,' the band's biggest hit to date – the infectious guitar and drumbeat are accompanied by Isaac Brock's gutsy vocals to a great effect; virtually the same thing applies to 'The View.'
If the world's at large why should I remain
Needless to say, not all of the songs are in the same vein – in fact, the instrumentalization is very diverse, which turns out to be one of the strongest points of the album – just take the immediately heart-grabbing 'The World At Large,' where mellotrons, pianos, whistles and God knows what else provide a backing for lovely guitars. And as the album progresses we hear banjo, ukulele, accordion, glockenspiel, fiddle... It all makes up for the absence of Jeremiah Green, the band's forming drummer. His substitute, Benjamin Weikel, plays his parts well, but while solid and by no means dragging the album down, they are never actually outstanding. However, they fit well with the melodies, which show just how much can be done on the guitar with no crazy solos or manic shredding – everything remains fairly simple the whole time. This may come out as disappointing at first, but there is nevertheless enough variety to keep you interested. And it's amazing just how many songs may turn out as hummable. Even 'Dance Hall' contains a short instrumental part that gets in your head and remains stuck there for a long time.
I could buy myself a reason
Counting out all this stuff actually serves a wider purpose – it gives you the idea about the album's balance between accessibility and delightful, indescribable quirkiness. The Moon & Antarctica
was rather somber and atmospheric in its principle; the lyrics were fitting, a bit over the top sometimes, but usually pretty poignant. Here the tone is lighter, both musically and lyrically, but most of the time soaked with irony. The obvious highlight is 'Bukowski' – it's hard to avoid a grin upon the first hearing of the lyrics, and since banjo takes the lead in this song, it turns out as bizarre, entertaining and instantly memorable, despite its slow tempo. What follows is an even more unexpected track – 'This Devil's Workday' marks the guest appearance of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band (also featured in 'Horn Intro,' reprised in this track as well) – it's only them plus Brock singing and playing banjo yet again. Ear-piercing horns and, if you ask me, extraordinarily fun vocals and lyrics may not appeal to everyone, but give it some time and it might just click.
These two are the peak of bizarreness, but even in the seemingly innocent pieces the weird atmosphere is hanging around. Much of it is due to Brock, as his voice is, as usual, one of the more important features of the band's music. Always in the foreground, sometimes surprisingly taking a wilder turn just for a moment (as in 'The View,' for example), it works perfectly with the tone of the lyrics, which are witty, full of memorable one-liners and, well, catchy as hell.
Well, now here's the clue
The change of direction marked in this release is clearly visible for everyone familiar with the band's previous work, but it's not for the worse. After all, Good News...
is a rare case of an album that breaks the band into mainstream without making them suddenly sound as if they left their roots behind, although it may sound as such upon your first listen. It's probably a good idea to begin your adventure with the alternative's most looked-upon rodent by purchasing this. Catchy, witty, and coherent, it's an album that you may find yourself listening to longer than you'd wish. Especially if it gets you to chuckle every now and then.