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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Modest Mouse
Good News for People Who Love Bad News
Epic Records

Rating: 8/10 ?


October 1, 2004
Modest Mouse, through the course of their four albums and countless singles and EPs, have become something of an indie rock standard bearer, almost the American equivalent to the dominating force of UK bands such as Radiohead. Like Thom Yorke and company, Isaac Brock and his mice have cultivated the often barren position of being artistically accessible to the underground while simultaneously prostituting themselves in the major market. The band began as a hyperactive trailer park punk outfit and, with some degree of speed, propelled themselves through a gradual stylistic metamorphosis into something much broader and more intricate. Whereas their earlier works were wrought with the abrasive tension of youth angst, Modest Mouse emerged from their major label cocoon a different creature.

From artistically auspicious, drug influenced beginnings Modest Mouse eventually rode their indie buzz to the bank when they signed with media whores Epic/Sony. While it is a politically long drive from Issaquah, Washington to Nissan commercials and the stinking corpse of the undead Lollapalooza circus, Modest Mouse have always held their artistic ground. With the release of the stellar The Moon & Antarctica the band seemed to have a firm grip on the brass ring that bands such as Wilco would later find elusive- the ability to create an artistically diverse, commercially unpromising album with an armada of financial and logistical backing. The walls of feedback and staggering time changes had been supplanted by more gentle, brooding music heavily influenced by Appalachian and folk music, and the response was almost unanimously gleeful. The band toured in the glowing wake of the album and made more fans, but in 2003, after a long stagnation of newly recorded material, Modest Mouse seemed to be heading into dangerous waters. A mouthy Brock was arrested at the Canadian border after his antics prompted officials to dig up a pending warrant, the band's longtime backbone, drummer Jeremiah Green, left the band and an initial attempt at recording Good News for People Who Love Bad News was aborted early on amidst rumors that the suits from Sony had nixed another session with indie luminaries Brian Deck and Phil Ek behind the controls. Things looked sketchy, to say the least.

Undoubtedly much will be said about Good News for People Who Love Bad News being a transitional album, one of amalgamation. There is virtually no way to approach Good News without seeing straight through it and into Modest Mouse's back catalog. The album's first single and third track, "Float On," could easily be an outtake from The Moon & Antarctica, it's shimmering and flittering guitar melodies supporting the anthemic chorus of "Don't you worry, we'll all float on". The reasons behind making "Float On" the first single from Good News are obvious - it is catchy, beautiful, smart and it capitalizes on the aftertaste of The Moon & Antarctica. It's easily one of my favorite tracks on the album (I can only hope it doesn't show up in another car commercial) but it also one of the most frustrating - the melodies feel like leftovers from the last album, the song is comprised of basically one verse and is almost entirely focused on a chorus, and it's the typical commercial length of three and a half minutes. And, you know, it sounds like the soundtrack to a visual medium, like a commercial.

To be honest the only way to find a plethora of faults within Good News is to actively look for them. It is a great album, one that few bands could make, and the departure of Green is not nearly as noticeable as one might have feared. (Now would be a good time to raise a glass in a toast to Eric Judy's fluid, creative bass playing, a superb asset to Good News.) For all of the comical chim-chim beauty of The Moon & Antarctica, I'm a devout fan of Modest Mouse's back catalog and it is a breath of fresh air to hear them bringing back the volume and frustration of the past. One of the more standout tracks from Good News, "Bury Me With It," meshes the heavier, grittier music of The Lonesome Crowded West with Brock's more organic and poetic verse found on The Moon & Antarctica - "We are hummingbirds who've lost the plot and we will not move."

Brock's other musical inclinations such as Ugly Casanova and the whole new school of down-home art-folk acts such as Decemberists and Iron & Wine also show a continued influence, songs like "Satin in a Coffin" and "Blame it on the Tetons" implementing banjo, strings, piano and varied percussion to great ends.

If you thought that opening analogy to Radiohead was a stretch, consider this: like Hail to the Thief, Good News for People Who Love Bad News is a highly anticipated, well crafted album from a commercially successful band with loads of underground credibility. It is also, in spite of its beauty, terribly disappointing - not a surprise to anyone who truly appreciated the unique and divergent nature of The Moon & Antarctica, an album that could in no way be easy to follow up. It appears that, like Radiohead, Modest Mouse may have run their course where re-inventing themselves is concerned. At this point almost anything the band releases will be, like Good News, entertaining, thought provoking, successful and praised. But what about challenging? As attached to this album as I find myself becoming, my emotions seem to be rooted much more in nostalgia and familiarity than excitement and exploration. I know where Good News is coming from immediately.

But hey, Modest Mouse have spoiled me over the years and I suppose in a lot of ways the pedestal upon which I place them in my mind is a high point to attain with regularity. So, as I crank the volume on the angular notes of "The View" and bounce my head in time, I will be hoping in the back of my mind that Modest Mouse haven't lost the spark of inventiveness. I, for one, would like to find them all over again.

Reviewed by Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.

See other reviews by Eric J Herboth

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