In many ways, Good News For People Who Love Bad News now looks like the album that Modest Mouse may have made to keep themselves in good favor with Epic Records, who probably found themselves a bit confused by The Moon And Antarctica. Although it certainly wasn't a critical disappointment, the album certainly had to be a bit bewildering for a major label who thought the group might curb their more bizarre tendencies for the suits. Although Good News For People Who Love Bad News certainly wasn't a downright stinker of an album, it didn't hold up very well over time, although it easily sold the most albums that the group had ever cleared while producing a solid single ("Float On") as well.
We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank finds the group sounding much more comfortable with themselves again, with Isaac Brock letting loose with his trademark yelp on many occasions while instrumentation for the release is downright grandiose at times. Oh yeah, and guitarist Johnny Marr joins the group for the album.
It's not a complete return-to-form for the group who used to revel and exploit their rough edges, but it's also a nice step up from their previous release. "March Into The Sea" opens the album with a swaying sea-shanty of a song as Brock goes from crooning to over-the-top hardy-har screams. The follower of "Dashboard" might as well be the next big single from the group as they compress their sound into loads of guitar hooks while bursts of horns and some swirls of strings turn the song into a pop gem. "Fire It Up" keeps things just a chart-seeking, with big choruses of the repeated call to action title and a drum machine augmented beat.
For my money, the best moment on the album comes about one-third of the way in, the the five-minute "Parting Of The Sensory." Starting with only acoustic guitar and vocals, the song builds slowly, layering in strings, a solid rhythm section, swirling effects, and a nice dose of feedback while Brock gets increasingly riled up, culminating in a stomping, raucous ending. The eight-minute "Spitting Venom" is even more indulgent, but seems to capture the best parts of the group with frantic sections of jangling guitars offset with a studio freedom (horns, filtered bells, etc) that suits the song well.
With fourteen songs running about an hour in length, there are certainly a couple tracks that could have been trimmed off. "Little Motel" rambles along for nearly five minutes without much that stands out, while "Missed The Boat" finds James Mercer of The Shins joining in on vocals while the song itself sounds like an overly-sacharine take on the latter group. In the end, it's not as excellent as their early work, but still pretty entertaining.