Thursday, May 20, 2004
Good News For People Who Love Bad News
For 11 years, Modest Mouse has been creating their own distinct brand of guitar rock. After great albums like 1997’s Lonesome Crowded West, the band released 2000’s The Moon & Anarctica, their most cohesive effort yet with a cold beauty that recalls the song collection’s namesake.
But, while The Moon & Anarctica was like a condensed slug of Modest Mouse’s signature sound, Good News For People Who Love Bad News is a scattered shotgun blast of music. The heavy production on “The World At Large,” “The View” and “Float On” give the songs an ‘80s feel. On “This Devil’s Workday,” frontman Isaac Brock sings like a Rain Dogs- era Tom Waits over horn blasts provided by The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, while “Bukowski” and “Blame It on the Tetons” have a rootsy feel due to the inclusion of banjo on the former and fiddle on the latter.
On “Bury Me With It,” Brock sings: “We’ve lost the plot and we just can’t choose.” Luckily , Good News For People Who Like Bad News proves that all of Brock’s possible future paths look promising. (ST)
HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE
The August Engine
Cruz Del Sur Music
On their promising debut, the Bay Area’s Hammers of Misfortune seemed to be what happened to those pale kids who listened to Metallica and played Final Fantasy at the same time, ultimately getting the listener a minimally coherent Dungeons and Dragons-type story set to tight progressive metal, replete with time changes, archaic lyrical inversions, duel harmonic solos, and Celtic acoustic interludes.
The main difference between The August Engine and their debut is the hint of staleness; one gets the sense that they juggled the same parts in the air only to have them come down in a different order. Specifically, the problem is that there is no appreciable difference. Not that radical album-to-album growth is the point of a musical career, but bands so invested in technical dynamism and the conceptually ambitious must, from album to album, describe an upward and outward motion or fall away. It’s a difficult game that no artist really wins and it’s the reason Yes went from “Heart of the Sunrise” to “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” (MB)
Nearly every year since he started recording music in 1978, Prince (or his alter ego The Artist Formerly Known As Prince) has released an album. Many are legendary such as Purple Rain while some, like 2002’s Rainbow Children, are known only by die-hard fans. While he has wandered through many styles in the past 10 years, Prince returns here to the genres he rules: guitar funk and sexy ballads.
The CD jumps off with the title track, paying homage to “true funk soldiers” like James Brown and Earth Wind & Fire. “Life ‘o’ the Party” is my favorite song on the CD. It has that ecstatic party vibe like “Let’s Go Crazy,” and Prince’s new horn section is a welcome addition.
Prince has always been a master of clever lyrics and there are many gems on this CD. His unmistakably smooth voice questions infidelity in the jazzy “What Do U Want Me 2 Do?” (“Shame on U girl, don’t U see this ring?”) and “The Marrying Kind.” He even touches on social issues in “Dear Mr. Man,” an open letter to political leaders who he feels are not spending enough energy on US issues.For any music fans who left Prince’s party when he changed his name, buy Musicology and listen to Prince’s new 21st century style. (CC)