Good News for People Who Love Bad News
(out of 5)
Finally now, two albums away from the angular Pixies’ leanings
that Modest Mouse first made its name on, the band
should be able to make it through an entire review
without the words “the” or “pixies” even
so much as being mentioned. Well, OK, maybe just
once or twice. The Pixies.
Hopefully, in fact, people will now start comparing
this Issaquah trio to things like caramel-praline
ice cream, Tootsie Roll Pops and Reese’s peanut
butter cups, or TV shows like “Home Movies,” “NewsRadio” and “Arrested
Development”—i.e., some of my favorite
Fans of 2000’s The Moon & Antarctica ought
to know what I'm talking about. While the early Pixies
comparisons were justified, Modest Mouse was always
a lot more philosophical. So when you strip the noise
away, not unlike the hard candy shell of a grape-flavored
Tootsie Roll Pop, you are left with a sumptuous chocolate
center, as opposed to, say, Kim Deal’s eerily
But Good News for People Who Love Bad News was four
years in the waiting. And it was clearly four years
well-spent. For in that time, the chocolate center
was allowed to grow, and perhaps set up some sort
of a nougat colony within the shell of the Tootsie
Pop. I can’t explain it scientifically. I’m
only a music critic. I just knows what I sees.
Translation: This album is good news for people who
love good news. Or Modest Mouse. Or the Pixies. Or
Tom Waits, actually. In a lot of ways, mostly musically,
it’s a return to form to MM’s first masterpiece,
The Lonesome Crowded West. Yet the boldness, wonder
and maturity of The Moon and Antarctica (their second,
yes, masterpiece) continue to shine through, particularly
in the lyrics.
There’s nothing I hate more than when music
critics call something “the third-best of the
year so far,” (i.e., Entertainment Weekly's
gushing last year over Liz Phair), but, ah, I’ve
never really been too much of a man of principle.
So here goes: Third-best album of the year so far?
What’s Brent’s second-best album of the
year so far?…Tune in over the next few weeks
to find out!
I hope you all appreciate how much effort I put into
these reviews. I mean, look at this week’s.
Two brand spankin’ new reviews for two albums
that both come out this Tuesday (April 6), all timely-like,
both of which happen to make reference to some sort
of land-dwelling mammal in the band’s name.
You think that’s just a coincidence? Well,
it isn’t. I do my homework. I bleed for you
guys. Just so you know.
You know who else bleeds for you?
It's All Around You
(out of 5)
Tortoise. No, not the land-dwelling mammal. The
band. When I reviewed Standards in 2001 (yes, they’ve
let me write here for that long), I said that if
everyone in the world put as much effort into their
personal relationships as the members of Tortoise
put into their albums in the studio, there would
be no war. And I don’t think I have to remind
you that I was right on about that one.
The same can be said for It’s All Around You.
As skilled as ever, Chicago’s finest kick Saddam
square in the pants over the course of 10 alternately
enthralling, visceral, pensive and calming tracks.
Several, like “The Lithium Stiffs,” “Dot/Eyes” and “Salt
the Skies” even explore relatively new territory
for the band, dipping their feet ever so tentatively
into ethereal chill-out, kinetic trance (like Pink
Floyd’s “On the Run” with a live
band) and (yowza!) heavy metal (post-hair-rock, perhaps?),
My only complaint is that the album is not nearly
as immediately accessible as Standards, TNT, Millions
Now Living Will Never Die, or, well, pretty much
everything else the band has recorded. Listening
to the album again now, after giving it a rest
for several weeks, several tracks are starting
to grow on me a lot more, convincing me that
the patient Tortoise fan will find a wealth of
At the same time, however, a few tracks here still
sound more like a Tortoise cover band than the
always boundary-pushing, always surprising Tortoise
that so many of us have come to expect. Perhaps
my expectations were simply too high to begin with.
In the end, though, it is indeed all around you.
Just whether or not it gets in any further than
that is uncertain.