The Mountain Goats All Eternals Deck(Merge Records) Buy it from Insound
Don’t you just hate The Mountain Goats: I mean just listen to that nasally voice, it’s an offense to the ears; and weren’t they once a one piece – that name is plural, you know that! And what you just sang doesn’t make sense, your music isn’t complex, or intriguing, or beautiful; oh it has the odd violins but if anything that makes it worse. This is terrible music, this is wrong... this is wrong... this... is... wrong...!
That’s probably how you’ll feel three songs into All Eternals Deck, but I can urge you with a satisfaction akin to a marathon runner who has, as his reserves of glycogen collapse, found the will to place each lead lined foot beyond lead lined foot to reach the tape: go on, keep going. This album is hard work, but, inch by wretched inch, it becomes worthwhile.
Darnielle certainly deserves the plaudits accrued in these 20 odd years. He has a way of using subtlety of imagery to avoid, allow me twist a well worn cliché here, bullying meaning into the ear of the beholder. “Crawl ‘til dawn on my hands and knees / goddamn these vampires and what they’ve done to me.” demands single and opener Damn These Vampires. Yes that’s strong, but it’s an utterly malleable sentiment and that is its success – something it is likely Darnielle understands only too well.
His other great talent is in manipulating tone and pauses to grant atmosphere to music that is so essentially simplistic in its make-up. The Autopsy Garland recounts “Look west from London down toward Hollywood / Remember the first days of California / You don't wanna see these guys without their masks on / You don't wanna see these guys without their masks on” Granting a haunting sense of the fickle arms that welcome the frail Hollywood dream. Conjuring so vivid an understanding in your listener from so little is a fine ability to have, and moment to moment on All Eternals Deck this is evident in spades.
Some of these songs are more accessible than others at first, but none are either sophisticated or impenetrable. What is required then, is simply a touch of resolve to unearth the gems that this record has to offer. With each listen each song will sit a little more comfortable in its groove until those niggling thoughts that plagued the first spins lose their hold for good. The result isn’t a glorious one, that’s not really what The Mountain Goats do, but it is a very strong addition to an already vast canon of work.15 April, 2011 - 09:15 — Joe Iliff