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.
Alice Cooper – Breadcrumbs EP
Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper
For a large number of Alice Cooper fans who didn’t experience everyone’s favorite snake-adorned shock rocker at the height of his powers through the ’70s, most probably were introduced to Cooper through 1989’s hair-metal infused generational breakout album Trash. That was at least, my introduction to Vincent Furnier, at the age of 9 years old, seeking for something to satiate my love of hair metal and shock rock. Trash was everything Bon Jovi’s New Jersey was- big, radio-friendly- but had that added sense of danger and darkness that didn’t come with the pretty side of hair metal. However, as sure as songs like “House of Fire“, “Bed of Nails“, and the ubiquitous hit “Poison”, are still great today, long-time Alice Cooper fans know that Cooper is at his most enthralling is when he taps into his garage rock lineage, cut from the same mold that was paved by bands like the MC5.
So for those born in the early 80s like myself, the initial foray into the world of Alice Cooper meant that you had to work your way back into this long-running discography to find the rich, often timeless work Cooper is best known for. In 2019 Alice Cooper himself is working his way back on his latest EP, the aptly titled Breadcrumbs. The 6-song EP finds Cooper revisiting music and artists connected thematically by what ties them all together- the Motor City. This Detroit-centric EP features Alice Cooper’s take on songs by Suzi Quatro, The Dirtbombs, Motown soul singer Shorty Long, and of course, The MC5 (the EP also features guest guitar and vocal work from Wayne Kramer). Included in the mix are a reworked version of the 2003 Alice Cooper song “Detroit City” and one new cut, “Go Man Go”.
On his reworked “Detroit City”, the song is given a rawer makeover, sounding far less produced than the original. Gone are the orchestral overdubs with the song relying more on the loud bluesy guitars- perhaps the way it was meant to sound. Suzi Q’s “Your Mama Won’t Like Me” stays fairly faithful to the original, but Quatro’s vocal sneer is replaced with.. well, Alice Cooper’s vocal sneer. MC5’s “Sister Anne” is almost as great as the original 1971version, with the added benefit of today’s production qualities.
The EP’s one new track, “Go Man Go”, is very much Detroit, and very much Alice Cooper. It’s rock n’ roll roots are coated with a little bit of rockabilly, a little bit of garage, a lot of attitude. Like this EP, the track should be a precursor of Alice Cooper’s anticipated next album. The hope is that he continues this work of keeping things dirty rock n’ roll as the results are more often than not, pretty great.
Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper. Breadcrumbs is a noble effort meant to tease and build anticipation than satisfy your craving for all new Alice Cooper material. It’s done just that, hinting at what could be around the corner. On top of which it shows that there are few rock stars who will ever reach the status and longevity of everyone’s favorite rock n’ roll snake charmer.
Goo Goo Dolls – Miracle Pill
The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good
One of the most remarkable things about the Goo Goo Dolls is their steadfast consistency amongst the ever-changing backdrop of popular music. Six years ago when they released Magnetic, I wrote that the band remained unchanged in the face of their supposed “waning popularity” in the eyes of pop culture and radio charts. It’s true that many of their contemporaries that made it big alongside them in the late 1990s are long gone, but for the Goos, they’ve quietly continued to be above everything else, themselves, just older, wiser, and continuingly more refined. Miracle Pill is their 12th studio album and is the natural progression from 2016’s Boxes. Like their previous release, Miracle Pill continues their musical evolution away from alternative rock to the more serene territory of adult contemporary. Sure, it may sound like a bad thing, but like everything the Goos have done over the past 25 years, it’s supremely confident and composed.
They may not write songs with the caustic bite like “Here Is Gone” anymore, but they have been finding comfort in the more introspective pop-strewn melodies found in songs like “Lights”. Similarly, in the new album’s lead single and title track, the Goos tap into bouncy, easy-to-digest pop empowerment. Songs like “Indestructible” show that the band haven’t put down their guitars just yet, constructing songs that are still fond of their alternative rock roots but have found comfort in grander, more expansive sounds.
The album’s best moments are when the Goo Goo Dolls unashamedly tug on the heartstrings like they’ve done so many times before. The quiet jangly nature of “Over You” does this particularly well, while the bigger, electronic-infused arena rock of “Lost” shows that this type of music is just done extremely poorly by bands like Imagine Dragons. “Autumn Leaves” is a throwback to the kind of songs found on Let Love In and Dizzy Up The Girl, sounding organic and wistful, while the closing of “Think It Over” is the kind of song they’ve been hinting at since Something For The Rest Of Us. It’s part quintessential Goos, but contemporary and timeless at the same time.
Credit to the Robby Takac songs of the album too- “Step In Line”, “Life’s a Message”- both some of the finest songs Takac has written. He is often cast in the shadow of John Rzeznik’s more recognizable sound, but on Miracle Pill, his work is the best its sounded since Dizzy.
The Ringer recently wrote a piece titled ‘The Goo Goo Dolls Were Never the Cool Kids, but They’re Still Standing’. I echoed these sentiments in that Magnetic review years ago, but if there was anything long time Goo Goo Dolls fans know is that the band were never concerned about popularity or being “cool”. The problem with being cool in music is that it fades. The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good. Not much has changed in that sense, and really, that’s much better than being cool.