The latest indie band to be sucked into MTV’s buzzworthy bin has been a constant staple in my record collection for quite some time. Despite popular opinion, Modest Mouse’s career did not begin with “Float On;” in fact, the video for that song is the first video the band has ever made. Nowadays you can turn on your local radio station and hear “Float On” played every five minutes, tune in to MTV and see their video, and then watch them play on Letterman. Modest Mouse is in the middle of their fifteen minutes of mainstream fame, the question one has to ask is whether or not their music will still maintain the same unbridled insanity and originality that drew most of their longtime fans to them in the first place, or if this album will be the soundtrack to the Modest Mouse sellout story.
A minute after receiving Good News For People Who Bad News, I popped it into my CD player and was overjoyed to hear something I never thought I’d hear on a rock record; horns, lots and lots of horns. The flourish of horns that begin this release is brought to you by The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, a modern day jazz band that continues to amaze with each of their releases. The simple use of The Dirty Dozen Brass Band presents Modest Mouse as not just another indie band breaking into the mainstream, but as an indie band maintaining their roots while thrusting themselves forward into the unknown of popular success. The second track on the disc is less in your face as the “Horn Intro” was; it’s more laid back, showcasing Brock’s subdued yet otherwise manic vocals. “The World At Large” portrays a scene of starting over. The lyrics tell of a person’s journey to escape the world that they’ve come to know and to travel into something new despite thoughts that “…starting over is not what life’s about.” Bouncy backing vocals combined with the simplistic yet charming music makes this track into a seemingly pleasant and slow beginning to an album that is filled with thunderous vocals and pounding, pulsating music.
“The Devil’s Workday,” “Satin In A Coffin,” and “The Good Times Are Killing Me” seem to stick out as the release’s most intriguing songs. “The Devil’s Workday” showcases Brock and his banjo accompanied by the horns of The Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The song starts out with what began the disc, “The Horn Intro,” then with a low chuckle from Brock the banjo kicks in and the squealing horns add a sense of evil to this wicked track. Brock’s voice is this rage-filled growl that really pushes this song into uncharted terrain. Another song that thrives with Brock’s intricate banjo playing is “Satin In A Coffin.” Starting off with a vibrant banjo hook and Tom “Hackensaw Boys” Pelosi’s dauntingly morose bass line, the song immediately presents the listener with a tune filled with dark lyrics. “Are you dead or are you sleeping? God I sure hope you are dead” sings Brock with a forceful tremble of a voice which gives this track even more of a dour appeal. The constant organ melody of Eric Judy, the skilled guitar work of Dann Gallucci, and the pounding drums of Benjamin Weikel only add to this magnificently intense track. “The Good Times Are Killing Me” has a light breezy tone flowing through it. The lyrics however tell a tale of vices and how these so called “good times are killing me.”
Compared to their other albums, Good News For People Who Love Bad News has an abundance of banjo work which often leads me to describe this album to others as ‘banjo-rific.’ Their latest effort continues the Modest Mouse tradition of being entirely original and true to their musical roots. Surprisingly enough, this may be the album that gives Modest Mouse the boost to stay rooted in mainstream culture despite my own reservations.