Modest Mouse could easily be mistaken for indie-rock also-rans — they look like small-town misfits and usually sound like that, too, between their detuned guitars and unpretentious Pavement affect. But there’s some mystery in their equation that sets this Issaquah, Washington, band apart: They make a peculiar brand of existential folk poetry, one that combines singer-guitarist Isaac Brock’s desperately uneasy vocals with off-kilter arrangements, creating something strangely catchy.
On the group’s fourth proper album, a mightier Mouse refine their weirdness and become a pop band while grasping at dark truths that pop ordinarily denies. Although the group still builds its sound around jammy live grooves, two new members and various guests flesh out Brock and bassist Eric Judy’s singular brand of psychedelic rock, art punk and pastoral Americana. Brock now writes and sings more melodically — a little less Pixies, a bit more Talking Heads.
Stylistically, Good News darts in dizzying directions. Mellotron strings adorn the orchestral opener, “”The World at Large,”” and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band adds a shot of New Orleans juju to “”This Devil’s Workday.”” Skewered funk rhythms enliven “”Bury Me With It”” and other unconventional dance cuts. And if he’s not quite rolling in optimism, Brock now accepts life’s pitfalls. “”As life gets longer, awful feels softer,”” he reasons in “”The View,”” while sensibly choosing sleep over stimulants in “”The Good Times Are Killing Me.”” As other bands grow old rather than grow up, Modest Mouse have finally found the big cheese.”