Sunday, January 17, 2010

Revisiting Good News for People who Love Bad News

I am starting to realize that when Modest Mouse sold out to the mainstream with "Float On", saying that Modest Mouse had watered their sound down to bland, mainstream pop is a complete fallacy. Sure, Modest Mouse's new sound was catchier - sure, it contained more mile-a-minute hooks, more condensed songwriting, and none of those ten-minute jam sessions that tended to alienate fans - but in the end, that's all it was: a new sound.

If you search the Internet long enough you'll probably find people asking whether Modest Mouse are a Franz Ferdinand clone, or whether Franz Ferdinand are a Modest Mouse clone. I used to think this was lunacy: it was obvious that Modest Mouse have been around since the early Nineties, worked their way to the upper echelon of indie rock, and have changed their sound several times during their long career. But Franz Ferdinand, on the other hand: they are a product of our last decade, the so-called "noughts"; they were handed success on a silver plate by the British music press; they work in a fairly tight subspectrum of the diversity of indie rock as a whole.

But I claim that the person who asks whether Modest Mouse or Franz Ferdinand came first actually has a point. And that's where we get to my revelation, if we can call it that.

Good News For People Who Love Bad News - despite its panderings to Tom Waits and to Jim Jarmusch's grotesque fantasy of a New Orleans, despite its musical nods to Dixieland, to traditional American musics, to the Deep South - has its roots in the same post-punk as more trendy revivalists like Franz Ferdinand and the Editors.

What do "Float On" and "The View" have in common? It's those jarring, angular funk chords. The Modest Mouse signatures - the shouts from the back of the room, Issac Brock's sharp wit - are still there, but musically, it's more like a Gang of Four record than our beloved "Cowboy Dan".

There's a group of jolly post-punkers called Orange Juice that I want to listen to a record of sometime soon. So I went on the Intertubes and looked up what was allegedly their top-40 single in the UK, a cute one-chord ditty called "Rip it Up". And I quickly realized that, with a few changes, this might as well have been "Float On" if it were more minimal and more angular. Both songs are based on a complex funk chord, and don't change terribly much rhythmically.

The end result, I think, is, that I will be relistening to Good News for People who Love Bad News in the near future, and finally begin to appreciate the record for what it is, as opposed to what it isn't.

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