Review Summary: Good News for People Who Love Bad News walks the fine line between indie and mainstream with the outstanding balance of a tightrope walker.
When the band Modest Mouse comes up in conversation most people know them for the song “Float On.” Precious few people have actually given a listen to the entire album it came from, much less any of Modest Mouse’s older albums. And boy would they be surprised. If they actually listened to the album they would find something far angrier and less accessible than the radio friendly hit. By the time their CD got to the track “Dance Hall” most casual listeners would be pressing the pause button.
On the other side of the coin, lots of hardcore Modest Mouse fans trash this album as their sellout album. It helped propel Modest Mouse out from the indie scene and into the spotlight, and, in doing so, lost some of what made Modest Mouse so original. In a sense they are right. Gone is the pure rage prevalent in The Lonely Crowded West, gone are the trippy guitar songs like “Dramamine” that allowed the listener to sink into the music and get lost. But out of the ashes comes something else.
For me, Good News for People Who Love Bad News walks the fine line between indie and mainstream with the outstanding balance of a tightrope walker.
This was my first Modest Mouse album and it let me ease into the brilliance of their music. The album gives a taste of what Modest Mouse is capable of without being so discordant that it drives away new, potential fans.
The first three songs on the album let the listener ease into Modest Mouse. Arguably the best track on the album, “The World at Large” soothes listeners with its slow tempo and beautiful rhythm. Then they are hit with the catchiness of “Float On” that makes your head bounce to the beat almost unconsciously. The upbeat lyrics and rhythm of this song make it easy to understand why this song became a hit. Finally they are shown my favorite song off this entire record, “Ocean Breathes Salty”, which deals with death and what happens (or doesn’t) after. It is after this that listeners are dealt their first taste of Isaac Brock’s anger.
“Bury Me with It” is certainly the angriest song on this album and is driven by Brock’s vocals. The tempo rises with his voice and goes back to a steady beat when he speaks most of the lines. One of the finer songs on the album, it helps showcase some of his anger that is in most of his older records.
During “Bukowski” Brock expresses his frustration towards religion, mocking “If God controls the land and disease, and keeps a watchful eye on me, if he's really so damn mighty, well my problem is that I can't see, well who'd wanna be? Who'd wanna be such a control freak?” The song is full of spite and leaves the listener just as upset as Brock clearly is.
“The Devil’s Workday” shows some of Brock’s less polished vocals and is driven by a discordant trumpet. This is followed by “The View,” a song with an upbeat tempo that drives depressing lyrics. The album finishes with the almost nostalgic “One Chance” and the wistful “The Good Times are Killing Me.”
The only track that really drags the album down is “Dance Hall,” which is just a mess of grunted lyrics and bizarre instrumentals. Is it interesting? Absolutely. Any good? Not really.
In the end, Good News for People Who Love Bad News is not perfect, but pretty damn good. It paints a picture of a band caught between individuality and accessibility.
For the hardcore fans: Is it a masterpiece like The Lonely Crowded West and The Moon and Antarctica? No. But it is not the sell out mainstream trash that some people are making it out to be.
For the newbies: If all you know by Modest Mouse is “Float On” or “Dashboard.” This is the album you should listen to. You just might like it.