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Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Mountain Goats - The Life of the World to Come

I'll admit it. I had a few misgivings about this record before it came out. As much as John Darnielle protested on The Mountain Goats website that he had not experienced some religious revival and was still as much of a lapsed Catholic as ever, and that the new record would not be some uber-religious screed, I had my doubts ["I come from Chino where the asphalt sprouts"].

Should I have feared? No. After all, Darnielle has been seasoning his music with varying degrees of religion for his entire career, be it "Trans-Jordanian Blues" (from On Juhu Beach), "Blues in Dallas" (from All Hail West Texas), "Genesis 19 1-2" (from Devil in the Shortwave), or "I Corinthians 13 8-10" (from Nothing For Juice). Of course, the fan favorite "Golden Boy" deals heavily with themes of the afterlife, cynically portraying heaven as a place as bleakly overrun by commercialization as this mortal coil we know so well. There are other examples in the catalogue I could point to, but by now I'd like to think I've made my point that he has dealt with religious themes frequently throughout his career and always come out the other side without seeming overbearing.

So onto the album. The release of "Genesis 3:23" for download on the 4AD website during the summer worried me. I was afraid that QC had slipped, because to be honest it felt sorta like a rehash of BNL's "The Old Apartment," and given the very close proximity of Darnielle and BNL on the Ships & Dip V cruise this past February, I thought that maybe he'd been tainted by the troubled and fading Canadian band who so owned the late 90s. If this was indeed the case (and in retrospect I don't really think that it is), it's only really apparent on that one song. And yes, Darnielle is allowed to delve into subject matter that other people have tackled before in his own way; if musicians were required to come up with a completely original topic to write a song on every time, that would just be unmanageable.

On the whole, it's a very quiet, spare work, reminiscent of 2006's Get Lonely. To be honest, I much prefer the more "boisterous" Goats songs, and if you're craving that, you're not going to find much of it here. However, "Psalms 40:2" is a real barn-burner that will appease those folks who tend to shy away from much of the quieter stuff. The vast majority of the album embodies a sort of understated desperate darkness, dealing with some heavy material such as the death of his mother-in-law in "Matthew 25:21," which is absolutely devastating.

Did I like Heretic Pride better? Most definitely.

Is this a good album in its own right? Yes. Comparing the two is apples and oranges.

Just don't eat the forbidden fruit.

The Mountain Goats - Psalms 40:2
The Mountain Goats - Matthew 25:21

Buy 'em up:


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