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Modest Mouse
Good News for People Who Love Bad News


5.0
classic

Review

by Mitch Worden EMERITUS
June 22nd, 2017 | 62 replies


Release Date: 2004 | Tracklist


I’ve been staring at my blank computer monitor for a few weeks now, completely stumped as to how to begin this review. No matter which way I start it, I end up unsatisfied--I feel like I’ve started rambling and the paper becomes incomprehensible gibberish, or this nagging feeling builds up inside me as if something is missing. There’s so much that can be discussed and so many ideas that pop in and out of my head, but by the end of the day they don’t seem to be good enough for Good News for People Who Love Bad News.

Given the album’s critical and fan reception, it sounds like a joke to say that my writing, no matter how inadequate it is, isn’t sufficient for a release so divisive. Like it or not, it’s the point of divergence: starting with this album, Modest Mouse began to depart from their self-loathing, indie rock existentialism and towards more accessible waters, leading to their current modern sound. It’s a sound many still haven’t quite made up their mind about. I suppose it’s appropriate in a sense that I have yet to make up my mind on how to describe how good this album is and what it’s meant to me. Perhaps there’s a sort of conflict of interest involved; considering that there’s not a single 5-star review for this on the site (and very few users who have given it a 5 in general), it’s as if I’m compelled to rush to the defense of poor Good News, trying to be the one to show everyone and their friends just how damn incredible of a listen it is. But at the same time, I want to try and present something without so much blatant bias. Over time, I’ve found this to be completely impossible to achieve.

I’ll just get straight to the point: I don’t find Good News nearly as poppy as it can be portrayed. Sure, lead singles “Float On” (the band’s big mainstream entrance) and “Ocean Breathes Salty,” as well as later album track “The View” definitely have refrains designed for memorability and pop-esque melodies. But don’t forget the opposite end; the one that contains “Dance Hall”--about 3 minutes of a jam session with Brock yelling into the microphone, barely understandable--the zaniness of “This Devil’s Workday,” what with its incessantly wailing horn section, and the multitude of interludes: one where Brock just kinda mumbles for a bit. And don’t forget songs like the opener “The World at Large,” whose beautiful guitars and subtlety harken back to the glory of Moon & Antarctica’s “Third Planet.” The issue as I see it is not that Good News is too poppy, but rather that it is an entirely mixed bag of songs. The band does advance towards a majority appeal, simultaneously throwing in curveballs that would turn off a conventional listener while still holding on to a little slice of their old selves.

In doing this, Modest Mouse present us with an album full to the brim with emotions, making it almost inconsistent. The despairing lyrics of “World at Large” end up fading into the so-sweet-it’s-disgusting happiness of “Float On.” Wait a bit longer and you get to “Bukowski,” with Brock having a conversation about the stupidity of God, and wait even longer for the uplifting “One Chance.” The ‘Mouse crew seem to jump to and from an understated depression to an excessively jubilant cheerfulness, be that through lyrical expression or the funky, poppy basslines and guitars.

It sounds like one hell of an identity crisis, and in truth… it is. I didn’t fully realize what this album was about until I found myself driving alone on a long midwestern highway, the moon hanging above me and the lights burning lazily through the darkness. Underneath all this atmosphere, I heard the soft acoustic strumming and the restrained, vulnerable vocals of “Blame it on the Tetons.” I let the song go on, hearing Brock’s trademark poetry alongside the gorgeous strings and the backing piano. I let it go on and on, maybe more than 5 times, replaying it until I felt like I had run out of tears to spend on this song. Because Isaac Brock ends up delivering a line towards the track’s conclusion that suddenly illuminated the purpose of the album to me:

“Everyone’s an ocean drowning.”

Eventually, the album collapses with the fun-sounding “The Good Times Are Killing Me.” But now, after this experience, I knew better, and I’m calling out Isaac Brock on the little scheme he’s crafted here. I’m not the first person on this planet Earth and on this very website to wake up for years with a consistent, lingering depression that’s followed me like some freakish reminder of my mistakes, but I’ll be the first to say no, Good News isn’t happy. You can feel it inside the superficial words of “Float On,” where bad *** happens in life but Brock shrugs it off as if we’ll all just get over it in time. You can hear it through the shouts on “Bury Me With It,” or the explosive build-up in “Satin in a Coffin.” You can hear it on the instrumental ending to “Tetons.” It’s everywhere on the album--these little hints that, despite trying so hard to put on a smile, Brock, and by extension the listening audience, aren’t quite there yet.

We all have our problems. That’s true of anyone. And we are all, each and every one of us, an ocean drowning, struggling through life and getting bogged down in our troubles. The perfect delicacy and refinement of Good News’ atmosphere--a gentle fogginess that seems almost impossible to perceive--is the glue that holds this all together. It gives the album a voice that seems to speak directly to you, reminding you that “Yeah, we’ve all got our ***, and we’re feeling pretty sad, but we’re fighting through it.” In a way, it feels almost inspirational, like a constant companion through all those lonely nights.

I’m looking back at what I’ve written and I’m still not sure if I got any good point across. Upon reflection, I don’t think I ever meant to. This was all just something that had to be said, that had to come off of my chest. Good News for People Who Love Bad News will never be for everyone, and it’s so obvious to see why due to how scattered it can be. Maybe my own dumb mind made up all this crap about an ‘atmosphere’ that just so happens to help you magically understand the album. If nothing else, I can assure you that the album is not drenched in pop-culture-manufactured happiness, and it’s not wallowing in absolute anguish. It’s about the fight to get better. And for that, Isaac Brock, I suppose I should thank you for helping me in my own fight, and thank you for helping plenty of others along the way.



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user ratings (2605)
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of


Comments:Add a Comment 
Conmaniac
June 22nd 2017


27694 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

tldr (;

jk will read but wowie

MarsKid
Emeritus
June 22nd 2017


21035 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The absolute madman 5'd Good News



Most personal review I made, hope you enjoy

NordicMindset
June 22nd 2017


25137 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

what, a 5?

MarsKid
Emeritus
June 22nd 2017


21035 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yessir

Conmaniac
June 22nd 2017


27694 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

wow crazy good review mars. very personal and you justify your rating. you repeat yourself a bit here and there but that'll come with a review this long. easy pos tho

also AVL is a good band marsbro

MarsKid
Emeritus
June 22nd 2017


21035 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I figured I did, glad you liked it tho < 3

FullOfSounds
June 22nd 2017


15821 Comments


okay this review is fantastic

MarsKid
Emeritus
June 22nd 2017


21035 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Much love < 3

kris.
June 22nd 2017


15504 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i fuck with this whole thing. the review, the score, everything.

guitarded_chuck
June 22nd 2017


18070 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

god luv ya mars, my boy coming through huge with the 5.0 defense

hal1ax
June 22nd 2017


15777 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

[2]

MarsKid
Emeritus
June 22nd 2017


21035 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks for reading people o/

DoofusWainwright
June 22nd 2017


19991 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The instrumental section of 'Blame it on the Tetons' is the best moment on this one



Great review, still something off-putting about the aesthetic of this album for me but some decent material

MyNameIsPencil
June 22nd 2017


6641 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

very nice

hal1ax
June 22nd 2017


15777 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Doof why don't u blow up that AV homie

MarsKid
Emeritus
June 22nd 2017


21035 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Much appreciated people o/

Cormano
June 22nd 2017


4178 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

shitstain band

butcherboy
June 23rd 2017


9464 Comments


Fucking amazing review.. a pos if there ever was a pos to pos..

BMDrummer
June 23rd 2017


15136 Comments


damn good rev wow

weird one for me, lots of old emotions stuck on this one

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
June 23rd 2017


5987 Comments


The World At Large > everything

Great review too.



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