This album is captivating, but doesn't touch on the same level as what I have heard before. Whilst I do not like to draw comparisons to earlier material I find myself pining for less production, minimal percussion... the early Mountain Goats I suppose. Whilst I do have a fondness for John Vanderslice's production it becomes somewhat instrusive here and songs that would be better a little more rough-edged seem so pristine that it makes listening a less intimate experience (take Autoclave, which I insist would be absolutely stunning if the production wasn't so clean; Darnielle's words need something of a background noise to draw more meaning to them).
Songs are written with beautiful and resplendent words as usual, lyrics appearing time and again like in the consistently wonderful San Bernardino with its magestic references to the Garden of Eden and hopes of a brighter future. Imagery is always there with the Mountain Goats and this album is certainly not a let-down in that respect. There are highlights and there are moments with such honest resonance that really captivate, such as in the title track where the character about to be taken to his death sings so defiantly, with such truth in his words that the listener is hopelessly touched by it.
As for the overall album, there are some moments that I am not so fond of, yet it is not worth mentioning them. Despite the production- which may just be a personal issue- the album is even a good starting point for anyone wanting to listen to the Mountain Goats, and I spent a good while wrapping myself in all its thought and delicacy. I recommend it indeed!