The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, April 6, 2004 - 9
Mouse makes Bad News good with latest
By Joel Hoard
Daily Arts Writer
Isaac Brock, Modest Mouse's eccentric, neu-
rotic, death-obsessed front man, established him-
self as indie rock's resident Woody Allen years
ago, and the band's latest album, Good News for
People Who Love Bad News,
further cements his title.
Brock's fixation on mortality
is still present, but Modest
Mouse's brand of acid-fried
indie is jumpier and more
anxious than ever before.
Deviating sharply from
2000's brooding and plaintive
The Moon & Antarctica, Good
News takes the rock-heavy
accessible song since Crowded West's "Polar
Opposites." Over a lilting guitar riff and dreamy
atmospherics, Brock shouts and lisps his way
through quirky lyrics such as "I backed my car
into a cop car the other day / Well, he just drove
off, sometimes life's OK."
Brock's love for absurdist humor and oddball
lyrics is on display throughout Good News, espe-
cially on "The Devil's Workday," a tongue-in-
cheek take-off of Tom Waits's bleak New Orleans
death marches. The song features low, belching
brass, twangy banjo and bleating trumpets. All
the while Brock bellows out strange, witty lines
like "Gonna take this sack of puppies and set it
out to freeze / Gonna climb around on all fours
till the blood falls out my knees" and the nonsen-
sical chorus of "All the people that you know
floating in the river are logs."
But Brock also shows a sober side on songs
such as the serene "Blame It on the Tetons." With
a backdrop of slow and subdued acoustic guitar,
Brock's somber lyrics and surprisingly endearing
vocals make the singer sound uncharacteristically
Throughout Good News, the marks of produc-
ers Dennis Herring and Dave Fridmann are
noticeable. Herring and Fridmann create a clean-
er and crisper sound through refined guitar tones
and denser arrangements without sacrificing
IRON & WINE
OUR ENDLESS NUMBERED DAYS
Rock bands have gimmicks; so do
solo musicians. Simon & Garfunkel
constantly played off their duo status,
and Bob Dylan sought to emulate
James Dean and Woody Guthrie.
Even Sufjan Stevens, creator of some
of the most honest new music,
debuted with a collection of songs
about his home state of Michigan. If
Iron & Wine's Sam Beam is working
a schtick, he does it pretty damn well
- there's no overt guile or elaborate
conceptual ideas on his latest release,
Our Endless Numbered Days.
After hearing tapes of Beam's
acoustic home recordings, Sub Pop
asked him for material to make an
album. Moving from his living room
to the recording studio to make Days,
Beam was able to maintain the pure,
poignant sound that brought his
homemade debut The Creek Drank
the Cradle such acclaim.
With Days, Beam has lent varia-
tion to the typical acoustic formula.
He usually combines only two ele-
ments, acoustic guitar and vocals,
but occasionally doubles guitar
lines and accent changes with lithe,
unimposing percussion. Tracks like
"On Your Wings" and "Cinder and
Smoke" simultaneously prickle and
soothe listeners. "Naked As We
Came" and "Sunset and Soon For-
gotten" move in a sweeter vein, but
Beam's lyrics and the combination
of twangy guitar and the light rasp
of his voice lend an intimate mood
to the whole album.
Lurking behind larger musical
connections, Beam's songs accentu-
ate highly emotional moments with-
out sappiness or overt manipulation.
This music inspires personal growth,
quickly or by tiny increments, by
finding consort with listeners' emo-
tions. When music touches your soul
this easily and tenderly, it doesn't
matter whether the musician's inten-
tions are pure or not - the music is
convincing enough. ***I
sound of 1997's Lonesome Crowded West and
updates it with refined production and an eclectic
array of instruments that includes organs, strings,
accordion, whistles and glockenspiel. To be sure,
Modest Mouse are still a guitar-centric group, but
the new assortment of instruments adds an ele-
ment of depth that was previously lacking.
Good News's centerpiece is the shimmering
"Float On," Modest Mouse's catchiest and most
Modest Mouse's characteristic sloppiness and
rawness. Brock's unmistakable, lispy whine and
jittery guitar style remain distinct and untouched.
If Isaac Brock is indie rock's Woody Allen,
then Good News for People Who Love Bad News
is his "Annie Hall." He's at the top of his game,
and all of the unrefined brilliance and idiosyn-
crasies have come to a head in Modest Mouse's
best record to date.
the michigan daily
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