In 1997 Modest Mouse released The Lonesome Crowded West, an album that would define Indie rock for the rest of the 90s. The album generally dealt with spiritual spiritual issues such as man’s relationship with god and an assortment of secular themes such as the American pioneer spirit. They may never top this album sadly. Though it was critically hailed as a masterpiece and gained the band a substantial cult following, it never truly made them into a “recognizable”. Then in 2000 Modest Mouse released The Moon And Antarctica. This album again contained dense themes, introspective lyrics, and Modest Mouse’s signature raw melancholy, with random bursts of energy. This album received much more attention than the previous album but Modest Mouse was still a “modest” little Indie band.
Finally in 2004 the band found much deserved mainstream success in Good News For People Who Love Bad News. It’s certainly more accessible than the bands previous efforts, but the sound is overall tighter. In all honesty their success still baffles me. The sound isn’t that far a departure from The Moon And Antarctica. To a lot of old fans this album was viewed as a betrayal, and unfairly so. This album is stronger than The Moon And Antarctica in my opinion. It’s just catchier and has a better range of sound. In either case, the ramifications of this album left Modest Mouse on the grand throne of Indie Rock.
The album crashes into existence with a brief Horn Intro and then shifts into the first proper song The World At Large. The song starts with some echoing guitar and then the guitar gets quieter as the spoken vocals start. The drumming is kept at a minimal thudding sound and as the song plods along a whistling noise pops up every now and then. The song never picks up and floats until its fades into a complete stop. Its overall very pleasant and a pleasant way to start a generally moody album.
The next track is Float On, the upbeat mainstream rocker that sparked the interest in this album. The song sports an insanely catchy delayed guitar riff along with thudding bass and drums. It stomps along at this mid tempo base end ends in Brock’s vocals being supported by a chanting chorus.
Now the albums mood begins to take an obvious change. The Ocean Breathes Salty is the less popular radio single. It’s a melancholy song with some strange guitar work with a lot of bends. The drums are great in this song as well. Brock mumbles and croons out the vocals in a depressing, disturbing way that fits the song really well. At the second half of the song the guitars become very distorted and Brock moans his lyrics out frantically like a madman as he groans, “I don’t know. I don’t know.” The song then gets slow again and calms down into a slow drumbeat, the bending guitar, and then into nothing again. The song is a bit longer than it should be but it’s very good depressing tune. On a side note…I’ve fallen asleep to this song a lot…and I mean this in a good way.
The next “real” song is Bury Me With It. It’s certainly the hardest song thus far. It opens up with some slamming guitar crashes and thrashes along with some strangely raw drums, with brief interludes of quieter vocals. Other than these periods Brock shouts out the chorus in anguish. The bass to this song is pretty catchy too.
Dance Hall is a chaotic mess. The song itself is really catchy and sounds as if you could actually throw down your best moves to it at a local club. The vocals are what makes or breaks this song to most people however. They are very loud and obnoxious at times. I think they are hilarious and create a fun feeling to the song. The guitar spits out some pretty odd feedback throughout the song.
Bukowski is easily the best song on the whole album. The album slowly starts out with some lonesome drums and then the western sounding guitar picking. Some instrument that sounds a lot like an accordion backs all this. The whole sound is very depressing. The song is about Charles Bukowski, an author famous for cherishing his life as a drunk, lazy, asshole. The vocals suggest the narrator compares his life as a similar daze. He then lashes out against god as a pragmatic hypocrite and control freak. For example when he says:
Here we go
If God controls the land and disease
Keeps a watchful eye on me
If he's really so damn mighty
My problem is that I can't see
Well who'd wanna be"
Who'd wanna be such a control freak"
Well who'd wanna be"
Who would wanna be such a control freak"
As the song stumbles along, screams can be heard in the background. One can only assume it’s the inner frustration of the narrator poking through. The song ends with an intercom from some sort of department or grocery store, as if the narrators life is so dazed that he phases out of reality into his introspective and bitter thoughts, even while he is out in public. The lyrics are just so strong and range from a quick pace to a slow drawl in the blink of an eye.
Satin In A Coffin starts out with some neat guitar picking and the drums beat like military drums it’s got a country feel to it. The song really degenerates from there however. The vocals sound like they have nothing behind them. It’s so flat. This song remains nothing more than a novelty.
Finally the album breaks out of it’s depressing funk with The View. The light angelic sounding guitar during the chorus always reminded me of the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Zephyr Song”. The rest of the song is complimented by an upstart dance beat with rave-like synth in the back. The drumbeat is a simple yet effective thump and the song even sports a semi-guitar solo. The song then ends with Brock’s voice being broken up and a wave of synth sound.
The Devils Workday starts out with some horns with an old style big band sound. However the guitar is very folk styled. They don’t seem to mesh at all but the psychotic sounding and senseless vocals together. Brock really belches them out in an almost evil way. It actually sounds like a Tom Waits song.
After the quick organ Interlude (Milo), the depressing mood resumes with Blame It On The Tetons. It’s a simple yet beautiful acoustic tune about how we throw the blame on others in our society to avoid our own problems. It ends with some pleasant piano and violin. I don’t quite know who the Tetons are supposed to be however. I’ll give a cookie to the first person that tells me…
Black Cadillacs starts out a lot like Blame It On The Tetons did but then surprisingly bursts into a scorching rock track complimented by some piano. The drums are very reckless and frenetic. It’s very fast and rides on the momentum of the main riff. It may not be a spectacular track but it works.
One Chance starts out with a mostly acoustic and breezy riff. The bass line is also more prevalent on this track than most others. It flows along at a mid-tempo pace until a bit later in the song it becomes a bit more aggressive as Brock’s voice picks up.
The final track on the album starts out with some very old timed sounding acoustic chords and some harmonious vocals. Then sound then molds into a bevy of distortion and keyboard. All along as the rest of the band goes on Brock continues with the same melodic high-pitched vocals. It’s a truly blissful song and an almost perfect album. Just as the album floated in, it floats “on”, and out into outer space.