There are times when a band hits a point in their career where everything is just right, where they make that quantum leap forward that they’ve been threatening to make for years. Such are the vagaries of music fandom that point isn’t recognised by all their fans immediately and there are inevitably those that feel betrayed when their favourite band embraces a new sound and enjoys a whole new level of success that they could previously only have dreamed of.
Good News For People Who Love Bad News was that point in Modest Mouse’s career and it’s an album that left some of their long-time fans cold for no other reason than it was an absurdly brilliant and accessible pop-rock album a world away from the lengthy epics that had preceded it. “But its less than fifty minutes long!” the unbelievers wailed. That much was certainly true, but it’s much harder to argue that it isn’t all the better for it. “They’ve sold out for radio play!” was another unfair accusation. While the fat and excess had certainly been trimmed from Modest Mouse, in doing so they had discovered the art of self-control and delivered an album that was a refreshing blend of alt-rock intelligence and pop-rock tunes.
Perhaps more than any other in my collection Good News For People Who Love Bad News has long been my album of choice if I am in desperate need of a musical pick-me-up, as regardless of the underlying threatening feeling that lurks in a sinister manner around its lyrics and subject matter, it somehow still makes me feel a hell of a lot better about my lot in life. Songs like “The World At Large”, “Bury Me With It”, “The View” and “Ocean Breathes Salty” make me feel positive and put a gigantic sodding spring in my step, and I have no idea why, but I’m bloody glad that they do. Best of all though is the single “Float On”, which latched itself into the deeper recesses of my subconscious from the very first time that I heard it and still refuses to let go over a decade later. Scanning the lyrics of the album for the first time you may find my buzzing reaction almost impossible to believe, but these clever, if occasionally bleak lyrics, are married to such great tunes that I for one can’t help grinning like an idiot through the majority of this album. Even it’s salute lifestyle excesses – The Flaming Lips assisted “The Good Times Are Killing Me” – is a celebration of everything that’s bad for you.
I can sympathise as to why why long term fans of Modest Mouse had such a violent reaction to this album, after all it’s a world away from the drawn-out alt-rock of The Lonesome Crowded West, and it’s certainly a far sleeker beast than the fan-favourite The Moon & Antarctica. While they have reverted back to their old ways since, Good News For People Who Love Bad News was the album where Modest Mouse briefly shook off the expectations of their fanbase and made a concerted bid for airplay and sales, and you know something? It’s all the better for it.