First things first - an admission. Whilst being aware of Modest Mouse as American indie darlings ploughing a decent but largely ignored furrow, until this album I'd not heard any of their material. Suffice to say that I - along with a respectable number of others, I'd venture - will be moved to investigate the band's back catalogue further following this effort.
The single 'Float On' will have already alerted some to the potential of this record. An excellent choice, it is likely to feature in many end-of-year lists as there surely won't be many better songs out this year. It has all the ingredients of a great single: catchy guitar riff, lively beat and a classic singalong refrain. More than that, though, it's one of those songs that makes you forget everything for three minutes and sway to the rhythm. In that sense, on first listen it reminded me of Franz Ferdinand's debut single 'Darts Of Pleasure'.
Indeed, once I'd absorbed 'Good News...' I was moved to dig out the Glaswegians' album for another listen. In both cases the first single promised much, yet Franz Ferdinand's long-player was simply a string of indie-disco floor fillers - fine if you're in the mood, or if that's all you want in a record, but ultimately I found it one-dimensional. As such, in my opinion 'Good News...' is the album FF could have made.
The reasons why 'Good News...' is superior are numerous. There's the variety - funky, dancy numbers such as 'Ocean Breathes Salty' and 'The View' abound but are complemented by changes of pace like the stripped down 'Blame It On The Tetons' and the quirky 'This Devil's Workday'. There's the lyrics - not quite classic poetry, granted, but any band that turns "You wasted life, why wouldn't you waste death?" into an anthemic chant deserves some sort of recognition. There's the vocals - singer Isaac Brock changes his tone to suit various moods, from the snarling 'Bury Me With It' to reflective closer 'The Good Times Are Killing Me'. There's the production - extracting the most from each song, it's no surprise to find that Dave Fridmann and The
Flaming Lips helped out on one song. I could go on.
What it all boils down to, though, is that this is a collection of
thoughtfully written songs, packed with catchy hooks and feeling in equal measure, delivered confidently and competently. You couldn't realistically ask for more, except perhaps that Modest Mouse get the attention that this album warrants.