April 1
c o n t e n t s

Neil LaBute's 'Things' Have a Nice Shape

The Problem With Playing God:  Atwood Brings Her Social Sci-Fi to SLC
'The Duchess of Malfi' Thrusts Energy Into Babcock
'The Corporation' Unveils the Trappings of Corporate America

Del Toro Brings Humor and Style to 'Hellboy'

Disney Animation Finds a 'Home on the Range'
  RED rating system
    Damn Fine

RED Reviews
by Brent Sallay

Good News for People Who Love Bad News
Modest Mouse
(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 things.

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 masculine gnarl.

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? You betcha.

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
Thrill Jockey
(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?), respectively.

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 music here.

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.

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