Isaac Brock is a shrugger. Shrugging is a sign of resignation, of course, and on Good News for People Who Love Bad News, there are a fair number of musical “fuck it”s. Faced with the problem of following up psychedelic landmark The Moon & Antarctica, the Modest Mouse singer-guitarist simply decided not to make the effort. The new record has more in common with the earthy, folk-inflected work—banjos! brass!—of Brock’s side project, Ugly Casanova, which features members of vaguely twangy indie heroes Califone and Holopaw, than anyone’s slack-rock classic. It’s worth noting, too, that the past four years have seen the departure of longtime MM drummer Jeremiah Green, whose labyrinthine rhythms were as distinctive as Eric Judy’s loping bass lines. You get the sense that new tub-thumper Benjamin Weikel is capable of equally twisty patterns, but the material on Good News isn’t nearly as showy; on opener “The World at Large,” in fact, the drums barely register at all. Not that the band’s big-picture approach has changed much: The chiming single-string guitar line that opens the song sounds an awful lot like Moon’s “Dark Center of the Universe.” Then there’s the classically Mousean crunch of “Bury Me With It”—think “Heart Cooks Brain” (from 1997’s The Lonesome Crowded West) by way of Barry Bonds—as well as the skittery, Talking Heads–like funk of “The View” and “Float On,” which has always been a discernible strain in the Issaquah, Wash., trio’s catalog. What’s different this time around is Brock, who seems to be a lot more, well, sober. Take “One Chance,” which pairs images of ships that “head back out again and go off sinking” with guitar riffs buoyant enough to keep them afloat. And when he sings that he’s “just a box in a cage,” it hardly sounds like a lament—at least coming from a guy whose lyrics regularly cast him as an enlightened cynic in a universe of infinite incomprehensibility. And if it truly is sobriety that’s motivating Brock these days, then he’s written his “The Drugs Don’t Work” in album-closer “The Good Times Are Killing Me.” Sure, the gurgles of synth come courtesy of the Flaming Lips, the last band you’d expect to see at an NA meeting, but who cares? You can bet that Brock doesn’t. —Chris Hagan

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