Mar 4, 2008

Heretic Pride-The Mountain Goats

"Heretic Pride" is the, um sorry I have lost count, umpteenth release by The Mountain Goats. This is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because, by now this band knows what they are doing, thoroughly and expertly. A curse, because after creating so much storied music it becomes a burden to come up with something fresh and exciting. And more pertinently, something better.
Thankfully this band, and that is the correct word now, have created something fresh and exciting. Is it better? Better then "The Sunset Tree", or my favourite "Tallahassee". Probably not, but this newest creation takes it place in the Darnielle catalogue. An ever burdening catalogue full of the rich tapestry of life, full of the drama, the joy, the sorrow, the idiocy. The stuff, the bone and marrow. The blood. Deep, dark blood, pulsing from Darnielle's heart to ours. For this is the outcome of his music. It is not for the casual listener. It is for the listener to wants to touch the music. To feel the guitar strings, the drum beats, feel the spit from Darnielle's mouth as he twists his tongue around his finely chiseled lyrics. Ah, the lyrics. The one thing that always matters for tMGs fans. Sure the music is doing its job. Mostly. But if you are driven by the power of a well placed lyric, this is your band. They are universal, much like the singer. Funny, heart breaking, poetic, silly, topical, historical, joyous, sorrowful. Living.

It is been well written how this band is now a three headed one. The addition of Jon Wurster on drums has certainly added a new dimension. There have been drums used in the past, but not to this extent. There are many other collaborators as well, including longtime friend Franklin Bruno. As well as St Vincent's Annie Clark, Rachel Ware and members of the Bright Mountain Choir. This album was written in many different places too. From Alaska to his home state of North Carolina. Thematically it is varied as well, it is basically an album of stories and characters. From the wonderfully fertile mind of John Darnielle. Unlike some of his previous work, which was often autobiographical, this seems to be a more outward looking work. It also is a work of many different musical styles. In many ways, a look back and a look forward. In many ways, immensely enjoyable. The opening four songs are a huge chunk of classic Mountain Goats goodness. The much played "Sax Rohmer #1" is a perfect opener. Its hurtling pace sure to make it a live favourite. Strings play a big part on "San Bernadino", its wistful tone gently swaying through out its duration. I think my favourite might actually be the title track, the drumming is taut and sharp and when John sings "I feel so proud to be alive" my heart thumps quite loudly. "Autoclave" follows, a glorious song full of a deep sorrow, beautifully expressed. The next two songs are I think the only lack lustre moments. "New Zion" skates to close to MOR music for my liking, whilst "So Desperate" strains a little too hard to be convincing. But its back on track after that. "In The Craters On The Moon" is dense and threatening and "Lovecraft in Brooklyn" is perhaps the hardest rocking song this band has recorded. It is sure to be popular live too. "How to Embrace A Swamp Creature" features delightful piano and backing vocals, as does "Marduk T-Shirt Men's Room Incident", although it features strings rather then piano. The closer "Michael Myers Resplendent" finishes things off nicely. A swooning, sweeping song that features mournful strings and fierce instrumentation. You know, I liked this album when I first heard it, but I like it even more now. Imagine my feelings in a year or two. If you choose to buy this album, I am sure you will live the same experience. Don't miss them in April either.

MP3: Sax Rohmer #1

The complex stories that emanate from John Darnielle's mind can never be properly explained by me. So here is an illustrated version to help you with the myriad of characters.
A far better review then mine appears at Cokemachineglow.


  • At March 04, 2008 , Anonymous Karen said...

    I love this album.

    I got to admit to a certain amount of relief when I first heard Sax Rohmer #1 though - after Get Lonely I was a little nervous. Not that I didn't like that album. It was a bit of work is all.

    I have my thoughts together about Heretic Pride and I'll write about it, but I have to get through Laneway first!! :)

    P.S. I agree with you about the title track - it's one of my favourites. Also the lyrics 'when the scum begins to circle the drain' from the last song on the album are possibly the best lyrics on the album. In this girl's opinion.

  • At March 05, 2008 , Anonymous Amanda said...

    More Darnielle expository:

  • At March 14, 2008 , Anonymous Bill said...

    Great review, pretty much dead on to my experience with the record. At first I kind of liked it but I wasn't thrilled and yet, more and more, I find I'm loving it. Sax Rohmer #1 is their best track since The Sunset Tree (I agree with karen that Get Lonely didn't do it for me). The title track, the last track are great. Almost all of the tracks in between are good. There's no "No Children" on this, but there's enough wonder to love it.


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