Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Friday, April 06, 2007

Failure of the Day: Art + Change = ??

YAY! Time for new music!

I am the latest of late birds on the Modest Mouse bandwagon, I realize. When Good News for People Who Like Bad News came out some years ago, I heard bits of it and hated it—it was too deliberate and angular and it just rubbed me all kinds of the wrong way. Which was weird, because everything about it, except how it actually sounded, seemed like it would be right up my alley. But then a few months ago something switched over in my head, and I thought: Modest Mouse! And I downloaded the songs and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t right up my alley. So deliberate! So angular! I loved it!

Their latest, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, is very, very good, even if it sounds quite a lot like the last two records they put out. I myself think growth can be overrated, especially when you are doing something that is already really interesting and cool and good.

The new Arcade Fire is a little bit tougher for me because it drifts into that Springsteenish sound and aesthetic that I find one-dimensional and dull. Other parts of it are rousing and lovely though. It’s hard to tell whether this is one of those times when a band changed in a way that I didn’t care for, or if they just made one brilliant record in the middle of an otherwise uninteresting career. I didn’t like their first EP, but Funeral is so good it makes my teeth hurt. Neon Bible is pretty good despite the over-earnest, gruff-voiced obviousness, but for a record that closes with a track called “My Body Is a Cage,” it seems to me that they had to work really hard to make me not swoon for it.

There is also the new Fountains of Wayne CD, Traffic and Weather, which we will pick up tomorrow. I think they are top-of-the-line pop songwriters despite what the meanest of the ugly kids from high school over at Pitchfork Media have to say about it. Plus, nothing is ever nearly as bad as they say it is.

I have just not been able to get into the new Clap Your Hands Say Yeah record Some Loud Thunder. I loved loved loved their debut, but the new record actually made me MAD. They added a layer of fuzz and distortion over the opening track that struck me as a giant “We’re Artists, so fuck you, listener” statement, and another track consists of the same three words repeated over and over again for what seemed like seven minutes. Even if some other tracks are good, I don’t really care.

Finally, in the course of composing this, I discovered that Nick Cave, who I have long since washed my hands of, grew a moustache and put out something that sounds interesting to me for the first time since Murder Ballads. Reviews of Grinderman describe punk dirges with fuzzy guitars and a song called “No Pussy Blues,” so I'm sticking a cautious toe back in those murky waters. Expectations aren’t high, exactly, but I’ll buy it, which is more than I can say for his last several.


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