January 30, 2008

"Woke Up Afraid of My Own Shadow ... Like, Genuinely Afraid"

Ugh! I can't hold back anymore! I've been sitting on this review for like a month now...

Back a little bit around the new year the new Mountain Goats leaked. There are some things I just can't expect myself to wait for, and the Mountain Goats is one of those things. But being the person I am, I won't be posting any new songs from it on this here blog or any other place until the album drops, because I respect John Darnielle, and he doesn't want his shit leaked early (which is why I didn't even host the crappy live recordings I made of the new songs he played a few months back). But I'm too anxious to not let people know that this album is just great.

Sax Rohmer #1: the first track on the album, and it sure as heck sound like our boy John has put a lot of energy into this opener. It's John singing about love from the eyes of a fairly deranged person ... something we're all too familiar with in regards to the Mountain Goats. The story telling method is similar to that of the Sunset Tree era Mountain Goats, but it didn't really sound too much like the songs off of Sunset Tree.

San Bernardino: Here is where the album starts to sound like some of his older stuff. This song sounds like a song off of Get Lonely, but higher production value (yeah, higher), and happier and more hopeful (but in that hopeless way that John always seems to make everything ... gosh I do love it :) )

Heretic Pride: This is another one that sounds almost completely fresh, but, like most the other songs on this album, there is a hint of a few other Mountain Goats eras in it.

Autoclave: My second favorite on the album. The only thing I didn't like about it was that near the end there are some distorted drums being played way in the background. Other than that I'd have to say this is the best written and catchiest of all the songs ... save for one. (This one also made me look something up! I had no idea what an autoclave was, of that it existed at all)

New Zion: A few months back John did a live set with Daytrotter.com (an amazing set I have to say), and in it he did a song by Peter Tosh (Babylon Burning). In the write up of the live set John mentions that he had really been getting into reggae. I think this song is the first of two on the album that really shows this (the other one more so than this)

So Desperate: The first thing I thought of when I heard this song is that is sounds a lot like "First Few Desperate Hours" off of Tallahassee. Now every time I hear it I want to hear "First Few Desperate Hours." Not a bad song, but not the strongest either. Genuinely

In The Craters of the Moon: On of the more intense songs on the album. Lots of alliteration about blood and darkness and numbness and blindness and all the general feelings surrounding what I can only imagine to be a painful area of John's life ... or of a character that John has made up's life. The man can freaking write well.

Lovecraft in Brooklyn: This was another one that I had to look up stuff to fully understand. Apparently H.P. Lovecraft had an awful time in Brooklyn, and the character in this story, who happens to know this obscure fact, feels like Lovecraft did while in Brooklyn. This is my absolute favorite song on the album. This is also the most intense song on the album, which is helped by the fact that John puts down the acoustic guitar and picks up the electric. Expect the usual crazy lyrics straight from a character's crazy-ass head.

Tianchi Lake: Quite the mood shift from the past two songs, which throws me every time. Kind of weird lyrics, but not weird in the way that I'd like them to be. Honestly a rather forgettable MG song. The piano part is too ... PBS Sea Voyage Special for me.

How to Embrace a Swamp Creature: This song feels like a conglomeration of a bunch of MG eras. It's not the most memorable, but it's not bad. If you were to hear just this one song from the album, you'd be expected to think "nice ... business as usual at Mountain Goats Inc.).

Marduk T-Shirt Men's Room Incident: This is the "hey MG fans, listen to this shit" song. There are some backing vocals you hardcore fans may have slightly noticed in one of the earlier songs on this album, but are right up front in this one. Trust me, hardcore fans will be giddy to hear these backing vocals. I won't spoil the surprise. Other than that, it's a pretty good song. Good storytelling, as always.

Sept. 15th, 1983: More so that New Zion, this song really really portrays what I think is John getting really into reggae. I didn't so much like this one at first, but it really grew on me. The story told in this one is really really well told. Probably one of the highlights of the album for me.

Michael Myers Resplendent: This song is actually a remake of a song they'd released on the official Mountain Goats website a couple christmas' ago. It was released with another song (I think) that I like more, so I didn't pay too much attention to this one, which is why I was so surprised to see it pop up again. I gave it a hard listen, and discovered what John saw in it ... it's a great song. Creeeeeeeeeeeepy.

So, that's the album, reviewed song by song. I've never done that before and will probably never do that again. The album is awesome. I give it a
Love More (<3), which, honestly, should go without saying.

Finally, remember that John Darnielle's contribution to the 33 1/3 series will be out on the 15th of April. Press release about it is as follows:

John Darnielle describes Master of Reality in the voice of a fifteen-year-old boy being held in an adolescent psychiatric center in southern California in 1985. The narrator explains Black Sabbath like an emissary from an alien race describing his culture to his captors: passionately, patiently, and lovingly. This album has a genuinely remarkable historical status: as a touchstone for the directionless, and as a common coin for young men and women who felt shut out of the broader cultural economy.

Rad? yes.

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