I’ve got Good News to blame for me writing here at all – Modest Mouse’s 4th LP Good News For People Who Love Bad News is incredibly special to me, as it’s one I can blame for my interest in alternative music ages-13-and-up. I might be a little starstruck when it comes to talking about it, but I’ll attempt regardless.
Unlike a lot of people, I came to Good News before I visited anything else in Modest Mouse’s catalog; even though it’s one of their poppier releases, I still found it challenging unlike anything I’d listened to before. Isaac Brock’s rambling and Waits-esque vocal delivery was shocking to me, even through the veil of their radio hit ‘Float On’, and it was a while before I revisited the track. When I came back, however, something clicked; I went straight for the rest of the album from there, and was immediately gripped.
The first half of Good News is generally considered the strongest, and marks a logically more upbeat twist on their sound from The Moon and Antartica. The opening trio of ‘The World At Large’, ‘Float On’ and ‘Ocean Breathes Salty’ all blend into eachother seamlessly, flowing from a slow and weary waltz into a ringing reflection on how short life is. Brock’s yelped lyrics are at their best here – as ever, he tackles existentialism and getting by with fervour, with a highlight coming from ‘Ocean Breathes Salty’ in “For your sake I hope heaven and hell are really them, but I wouldn’t hold my breath / you wasted life, why wouldn’t you waste death?” Things pick up from here; after the second of three brief but intense interludes in ‘Dig Your Grave’, Modest Mouse explode into pulsing basslines and jagged guitars in ‘Bury Me With It’, culminating in a noisy refrain of the album’s title. It’s a little more out there than the rest of the album, but not as much as follow-up ‘Dance Hall’, where Brock is almost completely unintelligible in his barking. Modest Mouse always have a couple weirder tracks on their records, and Good News is no different in that respect. What works here is how the cacophony of the more out-there tracks blend in with the rest of the album – Good News has an amazing sonic variety on its plate, from subtle banjos to screaming electric guitars, and from accordions to brilliant brass performances from The Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
This is partly why Good News is so important to me – aside from being a fantastic album, it introduced me to the idea that music didn’t have to just be a standard four piece band. Coming off the back of pop punk bands like Yellowcard and Green Day, Modest Mouse were a wake up call for me – this is what music could sound like with all the stops pulled out.
Although the first half of Good News has been called the strongest, I’d say the real highlights come later; the punch of ‘The View’ carries one of the best choruses I’ve heard in any song, with Brock crooning “As life gets longer, awful feels softer” over shuddering delayed guitars. ‘One Chance’ revisits the make-the-most sentiments of ‘Float On’ at the back end of the album, before ‘The Good Times are Killing Me’ brings the closing tone down to a mellow acoustic drive dotted with quiet synths. It’s a song of pure exhaustion, and a fitting end to the sharp energy of Good News.
Good News takes so many brilliant and less-used elements in indie rock and brings them together in one cohesive package – as a catalyst for my getting into alternative music (along with Daft Punk, admittedly) I’d call it one of the most important albums in my life.By Jowan Mead