Modest Mouse is out for some serious money. Their latest release, Good News for People Who Love Bad News, is rife with radio-friendly tunes. On the first listen, it was rather unimpressive – until the seventh track. “Dance Hall” is unadulterated. mad craziness, complete with flashing rants of the sort that make their live shows incredible.
Then it becomes clear that Modest Mouse is not only after serious cash but out to pull one over on all the pop-hungry geeks that may hear one of the tamer tracks on the radio and rush out to buy the album. “This Devil’s Workday” is almost pure Tom Waits – in his lunatic phase, later in his career – or, in simpler terms, brilliant. This is brave on an album pretty clearly meant for popheads. Lure them in with poppy beginning songs, scare the shit out of them, then let ’em down gentle-like with a final track guest-starring – you’re gonna love this – none other than the Flaming Lips, who add their brand of trippy background instrumentation, vocals and drums to “The Good Times Are Killing Me.”
At some points, Good News, much like their first release with Epic, The Moon & Antarctica, sounds like a step in the wrong direction for the innovative trio. The production sounds too clean, sacrificing the raw sound that defined the Washingtonian band in their early career. Lead mouthpiece and guitarist Isaac Brock’s trademark vocal contortions sound, at times, contrived. And the new drummer, Benjamin Weikel – well, he’s good. The true test of this album is to take it out for a spin in the old Honda, any road, any direction – so long as it’s fast. It passes. I didn’t even know that damn car could break a hundred ’til this disc was in the CD player.
[Cory Anthony makes one of the finer gin and tonics this side of the Mississippi.]