Fri April 9 & Sat April 10
Crystall Ballroom, 133 2 W Burnside
Roughly calculated, there are about three million reasons why this show should have never happened. When Modest Mouse retreated to a rented condo out in the Portland foothills nearly two years ago--set on writing their fifth album, the triumphant and tuneful Good News For People Who Love Bad News (out Tuesday on Epic)--they began tallying them up. All the expected stumbling blocks had emerged: drug issues, the occasional breakdown, an arrest, drug issues. But the stakes seemed higher now. These were grown men renegotiating their places in the world (bassist Eric Judy became a father, lead songwriter Isaac Brock had taken a shot at being an A&R guy) and when, six months into the album's turbulent writing and recording process, they lost original drummer Jeremiah Green, things seemed bleak. Then they lost the keys to their cushy clubhouse and the support of their major label. From the outside, one could have just as easily assumed that they were going to lose the plot entirely. But instead they made one of the most focused records of their decade-long career.
So, fucking there.
Many of the songs from Good News For People Who Love Bad News should crowd out their sold-out performances at the Crystal Ballroom this week, as their funny little comeback tour winds its way into its final stretch. Touched by spiritual high-fives and punchy late-20s introspection, the new songs absolutely glow--and ask you to sing along to their gigantic choruses. Helio Sequence timepiece Benjamin Weikel has stepped in seamlessly for now-estranged drummer Green (he's taken a kind of necessary sabbatical from the band until this summer) and he looks like a giant, whacking sideways at beats that hardly anyone else could duplicate. His band opens the show, too, but the real star here is still Brock, who stands as a rather durable songwriter at the end of it all.
A few weeks ago, at a tour stop in Los Angeles, he tried to lead his fans in a rendition of "Wind Beneath My Wings," and though he may sing softly now, he still carries a harsh lisp. Later, he spit out lines like, "God, I sure hope you are dead" at anyone within the first five rows. But don't mind him; it's just that old habits diehard. Most everything you'll read about the band in coming months will be written about with Behind The Music posturing (this preview included), if only because all of this drama has lead to a new beginning. If nothing else, Good News For People Who Love Bad News stands as Modest Mouse's second act. Brock is starting over in this world of bad news and Beaches references, and he's managed to weather the tides of change, looking failure in the eye with a crooked grin. He's just happy to be here. TREVOR KELLEY