Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Mountain Goats Turn Over With The All Eternals Deck

The Mountain GoatsBack in 1991, John Darnielle sat down in his cheap Norwalk employee housing studio apartment with an inexpensive guitar and dual-cassette recorder to pound out poetry. But then something unexpected happened over the deco tiling on his tiny bathroom floor.

His poems began to sound more like songs and his friend Rachel Ware, who played bass, joined him to form a band. That was some time ago, and the Mountain Goats have gone through several transformations before settling on John Wurster (drums) and Peter Hughes (bass) in 2007.

Listening to some songs, you would never know. Darnielle is such a strong driving force to everything that the Mountain Goats has ever produced that anyone who knows the band would immediately recognize the sound. At least, for the most part. All Eternals Deck won't likely be a favorite among most fans, but there are a few songs that represent.

All Eternals Deck feels denser, punctuated by a couple of haunting gems.

Darnielle has always been a deep-thinking narrator that can make you ache from head to heart. He does it frequently too, with more than 26 LPs and EPs behind him. One of the first, my introduction years ago, was Nine Black Poppies. By the time he produced The Coroner's Gambit, Darnielle would be striking the chords for as long as he write poetry.

Right out of the box on All Eternals Deck, Damn These Vampires does exactly that as Darnielle laments in pained detail of growing up in a small rural town where one day rolls into the next. The people who populate our environments dictate who we were before, if we let them.

Like so many of his songs, the instrumental — brush sticks under the acoustic guitar and a piano — sets the mood. While I'm not certain, it feels reminiscent of a hazy morning in central California. And it's this piquant sound that earned him a cult following.

Never Quite Free captures a similar theme, but with a direct reference to faith getting you through the worst — the calm that immediately follows standing on the edge of tragedy. Almost unnoticeable annotation aside, the song carries more passion than many of the other tracks.

There are other solid songs. Birth Of Serpents, which the band played on Letterman. It's another song referencing a hometown, except this one reflects on returning home awash in semi-success only to learn a friend has died. Also check out Beautiful Gas Mask, Liza Minnelli, Outer Scorpion Squadron, and For Charles Bronson (because it's probably not the one you think).

On the whole, All Eternals Deck doesn't pack the same punch musically as some of the best picks of his work over the years. But there is no mistaking that almost all of them will snare you with the interwoven lyrics that still make Darnielle as much of a poet as he ever was. Wurster and Hughes tighten up on the arrangements, taking some ownership of the band.

All Eternals Deck By The Mountain Goats Flips Over With A 4.4 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Writing a review about the Mountain Goats is almost sublime in that it has always been one of those bands that I've held close to my chest. You know on the front end that not everyone who hears them is going to understand the appeal. So sometimes you don't share it. On any other album, they move the numbers higher. But then again, maybe they will anyway for someone.

All Eternals Deck by the Mountain Goats is available on iTunes. You can also find the album on Amazon or pick up All Eternals Deck from Barnes & Noble.
blog comments powered by Disqus