Everything right is wrong again

by Keri Carlson

In attempts to appeal to a hip, young crowd (or a crowd who thinks its young and hip), car commercials have for many years now played artists taken right off the College Music Journal charts. Volkswagen even came out with a compact disc of songs featured on its commercials. It was not such a huge surprise then to hear Modest Mouse coming from the television last year. But for a minivan?!?! Granted, the Modest Mouse song for the commercial was one of the band’s gentler and prettier tunes. It was still weird to imagine soccer moms humming along to the screeching vocals of Isaac Brock, who can sound close to an angry preteen boy whose voice is changing.

The minivan commercial was perhaps a warning. A premonition for long-time Modest Mouse fans that their favorite band would soon be everywhere. Literally, everywhere. On the radio, on MTV2 every half-hour, in Target ads, etc. There is now no avoiding Modest Mouse.

If ever a Modest Mouse album was to be embraced by Best Buy shoppers, it makes sense “Good News for People Who Love Bad News” is that album.

The band did not so much change its sound as it changed the flow of the new album. “Good News” sounds like Modest Mouse. The same stomping, spastic indie-rock laced with twangy guitars still remains. And of course, Brock’s choked-up vocals could never be mistaken. The major difference between this album and Modest Mouse’s best albums, “Lonesome Crowded West” and “The Moon and Antarctica” is “Good News” crams a lot of hit songs back to back. The other two albums experimented more with varying between bleak and slow to full and furious. “Moon and Antarctica” best displayed Modest Mouse’s ability to capture confusion, disillusionment and frustration wrapped in beauty. “Good News” tackles these emotions successfully in each song; yet the album does not stab at your heart like “Moon” after its completion.

“Good News” feels like listening to a “Best of Modest Mouse” album. Older fans may miss the longer, slower and stranger songs always left off “Best Ofs,” but “Good News” features some of Modest Mouse’s best songs. Brock’s lyrics are as sharp as ever on such lines as, “My thoughts were so loud I couldn’t hear my mouth” and, “You tell me what you want and I’ll tell you what you get.”

The hit song off the album, “Float On,” sums up the mood of the record ñ it’s depressingly optimistic, or maybe, optimistically depressing. “Float On” rambles through a series of events that should make life miserable but end up working out and being okay. It sounds pleasant, but the distant and airy vocals of Brock singing “Float On” give the image of wandering helplessly through life. The message – it doesn’t matter what happens – is not such a happy one. This is confirmed in the next track “Ocean Breathes Salty” when Brock ends with, “You wasted life, why wouldn’t you waste death?”

While the album as a whole sounds geared toward mass consumption, Modest Mouse continues to expand on its sound and still be Modest Mouse. So it doesn’t matter how many minivan commercials the band is featured in ñ especially if it can get soccer moms to start singing lines like, “So pleased with ourselves for using so many verbs and nouns. But we were all still just dumb-dumb-dumber than the dirt.”