Today’s selection is of an Issaquah Washington variety – but I don’t know that it carries any typical West Coast vibes. Released in 2004, today’s album went platinum, so there’s a good chance you’ve heard at least one of the songs on here- what you think of it, and what you think of the rest of the album…well, let’s find out…
Modest Mouse – Good News for people who Love Bad News
Read about the band here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modest_Mouse
Fun Facts: Their name is derived from a passage from the Virginia Woolf story “The Mark on the Wall” which reads, “I wish I could hit upon a pleasant track of thought, a track indirectly reflecting credit upon myself, for those are the pleasantest thoughts, and very frequent even in the minds of modest, mouse-coloured people, who believe genuinely that they dislike to hear their own praises.”
Modest Mouse-Good News For People Who Love Bad News (9/20) Not the best MM album, but close. This is just flat out good. 4.4
Modest Mouse-Good News for People Who Love Bad News
Preconceived Notions: This better be good. I’m kind of ready to really love an album. I feel as if the last several albums up to this point have been between mediocre and dear-god-please-let-me-tear-out-my-eardrums-using-last-night’s-chopsticks, so for the sake of everyone involved, I need this to be a good one. I know Mr. Kennedy wanted me to ask what I could do for my country, but right now, it’s what I think RC can do for my Thursday that’s important. I have high hopes. If they’re dashed, it will make the recovery time all the longer. Also, of course I’ve heard Float On, I have a working radio and television and leave my home at least twice a week. I would have had to be a captive of Buffalo Bill to miss that single.
Ocean Breathes Salty-I think this is supposed to be a tribute to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, no? Or did Dani California sneak a little off the top of this song?
Bury Me With It-is this what a David Byrne produced White Stripes album would sound like? If so, I’d probably buy that album
Bukowski-ok, it’s like it’s almost against my will, but I’m really digging the folksy Smiths vibe of this one. I’ve felt that Morrissey should be backed by a jug band for a while.
The View-this is probably the song I’ve been hoping to hear for about four or five albums now, which means that certain among our numbers will probably hate it. I’m intrigued to see if my calculations are correct.
Satin In a Coffin-I feel like this is a song that could be used in a remix version of Ken Burns’ Civil War. I might just really be in love with the idea of what a remix version of any Ken Burns documentary would look like. Someone get Skrillex on the phone.
Interlude Milo -Everyone knows that using recorded baby noises of your probably adorable child/niece/nephew is cheating, and a bit self indulgent. I’ll let it slide this time because it sounds like it’s a little boy with chubby cheeks
Blame It On The Tetons & One Chance-remind me of Band Of Horses and I have to believe those guys listened to this album on repeat for at least one summer
After Listening: I guess I was a little surprised because I think I just assumed that Modest Mouse was a British band, I might have, at one point or another, confused them with Muse. But it turns out it’d be difficult to mistake their distinctly American folk undertones. The foundations of a majority of these songs are packed with bluegrass and country influences while the top layers range from straight up rock to 80s BritPop. It all makes for something that is immensely listenable. The album is an oddly cohesive listen considering the range of influences. I particularly like the way that The World At Large flows into Float On like they were essentially meant to be one big song, but in the interest of studio requests, they split them, the audio equivalent of Kill Bill Vol 1 & 2. As usual, I don’t understand the necessity of “interludes” and I don’t think that they advance the album at all (they could have been edited without doing any harm to the album structure) but they’re less offensive here than I’ve heard before; they’re kind of like that mole the doctor told you not to worry about, sure it’s annoying, but not harmful. The album does a great job of offering variety in sound without ever becoming disingenuous and that usually is a difficult task to pull off, so all in all, I can’t complain too much.
Favorites: The World At Large/Ocean Breathes Salty/The View
Preconceived Notions: This is actually my pick believe it or not…and I’ve picked it, b/c after a few years I’m still trying to remember to listen to more of them. For example, I will hear a song form them I really enjoy…and promptly forget to ever follow up on it. This album I have not heard in its entirety, but I have heard about half the tracks – out of order and at random times throughout my life. And it seems more than time to explore an entire album and see if the short bursts of connection I have to them are part of a bigger theme, or whether I’ve just experienced what I’ve experienced with them in the right context.
After Listening: Whereas I’m guessing the 1st song 99% of people heard off this record was “Float On”, my 1st experience with this record was “Bukowski” and while you probably think that belongs in the “preconceived notions” part of this review, I’m including it here to speak to the type of intrigue I have when I look deeper into Modest Mouse. Bukowski grabbed my attention b/c of the subject matter. I mean who writes a song about Charles Bukowski-and furthermore who gets away with it, without sinking into hopelessly cheesy clichéd themes? It screamed at me potential with a capital “P”…and speaks to the real strength of this record, which deals less in the execution of intricate musical ideas, and more in complex emotional structures. Despite of its short length there is a fair amount of rambling on the record. In general, I have been known to enjoy a good ramble….even those that veer off course and crash into that Grandpa “I wore an onion on my belt, which was the style of the day” Simpson territory. I don’t mind unfocused exploration as long as it doesn’t bore me. Truthfully I’ve always been at least interested in Modest Mouse on the periphery because unlike so many other bands stuck squarely in the independent, low-fi, or modern rock genres…they seem to have a balance worthy of envy. There are elements of experimentation all over the record, and while lyrically it’s a bit manic depressive…the overall tone is upbeat- which I’m led to believe is a departure from earlier records, as I have only heard post- Good News releases.
Favorite Tracks: The Ocean Breeze is Salty – I think this is sort of the entire album in one track, an undeniable catchy musical presentation with strong rhythms, and an engaging not “quite right” guitar line, a jagged drum roll, and very bright keyboards. All of it as a backdrop for overtly violent and scathing lyrical bursts “You wasted life, why wouldn’t you waste death?” Eviscerating someone’s core belief system has never sounded so cheery.
Bukowski – Not only was this my introduction to the album, but I identified with it, b/c it defines something in another entire medium for me. I have always loved Charles Bukowski’s fiction from a very young age….and I have always had the same inner conflict (as I suspect most fans have), you love the prose but the characters presented- even as caricatures of himself(some actually less messed up than his real life)-therein often act deplorable. And this is compounded by the moments in your own life where you are treading that line, or worst crossing it-and you can see them, but you can’t change them. I had a time like this in my life, about 3 years before I heard this song, when I was living in Boston-drinking every night, questioning relationships and existence – and toping it off with delusions of writing. I was reading Bukowski more than ever then.. Having pulled myself out of that spiral – to hear a song chronicle that same bizarre struggle in the Bukowski context…well, that was pretty impressive. And like Bukowski’s famous line “Don’t Try” which is often misread as a defeatist motto by non-fans, (it’s a ringing endorsement of letting inspiration and life coming to you and being at peace with everything)…so too I think this song with its “God who’d want to be such an asshole?” manages to do a great job encapsulating the complexities of the man’s work in an oddly loving tribute.
Least Favorite: Bury Me with it – some of these tracks use the rambling mixture of manic and aggression and push it into blatant and increasingly static areas. These is the 1st of about 3 of them on the album that really don’t hit there mark as anything other than an uneven sound collage.
Overall 4.34 I think it’s fair to say I owe these guys more of my attention after finally making it through an album. This isn’t a perfect effort, and the middle of the record sort of dies a bit in meaning and connection for me- even as the vocals and music seem to intensify. However, I can say that I really appreciate the sort of general quirkiness these guys bring to the table…most of the time, whether it’s conjuring up Tom Waits impersonations, playing melodies that oscillate between out-of-key and super-catchy, or forcing uniquely violent or scathing lyrical content overtop of subtle rhythms….that quirkiness is sort of amazingly well crafted. The few times the formulas turn out wrong are more than forgivable as long as they are earnest, and they certainly consistently seem to be. I look forward to more of their stuff. Provided I can remember they exist….
Modest Mouse – Good News for People Who Like Bad News
Preconception: I am sure I have heard them. I remember wanting to check them out when Jonny Marr joined the band, but I think that was after this album.
After listening: Oh yeah, I’ve heard Float On and Satin in a Coffin. I think I liked them.
Favorite Tracks: The Devil’s Workday is very 1989 Tom Waits-y. This is an endorsement.
Least Favorite Track: Dance Hall sounds like Adam Sandler covering Mojo Nixon. This is not an endorsement.
Overall: I was familiar with the big single, but I admit the complete album was much more interesting than I expected. I enjoyed the hillbilly hipster elements and the slight punch of the borrowed horns, and the underlying songcraft was strong. They are what the Decemberists would sound like if they had girlfriends. I love the drumming on The Ocean Breeze is Salty and the banjo in Satin makes it perfect for the opening titles of AMC’s Walking Dead/Hell on Wheels crossover miniseries. I can do without the baby wandering into the studio for Interlude but coming late in the album, it is forgivable like the 12:56 SNL sketch. Once they are done with all the fuh-fuh-fuhkin’ around on tracks 1, 5, & 12, they roll into a strong 3-song finish. I immediately started listening to We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, which I am liking even more than Good News.
Prelisten Guess: 3.0