March 15, 2002

Test Spin: The Mountain Goats

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When John Darnielle wants to record an album as The Mountain Goats, he simply sits down with his guitar, a batch of simple folk tunes, and a trusty 12 year-old boombox. As Darnielle writes in the liner notes, the rhythmic clicking and hiss from his broken Panasonic tape deck is the second performer, providing low background clatter on these barebones acoustic tunes.

As always, the music is spare, leaving the focus entirely on Darnielle’s literary lyrics. Whether he’s being funny, depressing, nostalgic, joyous, romantic — or all of them at once — he can be counted on for a clever turn of phrase or an insightful comment.

“Color in Your Cheeks” pairs a stuttery guitar with lyrics about a town that accepts the world’s outcasts. “Fall of the Star High School Running Back” has some more great couplets, like, “selling acid was a bad idea/ and selling it to a cop was a worse one.”

These 14 songs continue in the fine Mountain Goats tradition. Darnielle fans will be completely unsurprised to find that the music is still just as crude, and the lyrics just as beautiful.

Archived article by Ed Howard