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!
The Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride (4ad) Those Mountain Goats - they keep on coming. This is album number 15 from John Darnielle, a former psychiatric nurse and writer. Big on autobiographical songs and lo-fi production, there's never going to be a mass market for this sort of stuff, but there's a nagging feeling that it should be more popular than it is. It's intelligent, literate and positively elegant in places, and what with Darnielle's unnatural attention to detail, we're all for it. Now, if we can just convince another hundred thousand or so folks... 8/10.
Firstly I just want to disagree a little bit with "Stipesdoppleganger" who claimed that this album would not win The Mountain Goats any new fans. Well it won me over - it is the first album of theirs I've ever heard and I am mighty impressed with the quality of the songwriting. Lyricism this good don't come around very often - some beautifully affecting lines/couplets which are delivered with John Darnielle's rather unusual voice - not to everyone's tastes no doubt - but nice to hear a distinctive voice in this mediocrity saturated world of music. Imagine my delight when I find that he has done another dozen albums - plenty of material to dive into. For anyone who appreciates good songs, great lyrics all put together with honesty, integrity, skill and style. Brilliant ------- BUY IT!!!!!!
The Mountain Goats are a prolific outfit whose beginnings in the early '90s were documented on numerous lo-fi cassettes, 7'' singles and compilations. Whatever the number, at the centre of The Mountain Goats stands John Darnielle, singer and composer of impassioned, poetically insinuating songs. His voice is a reedy slightly strangulated thing that may disillusion may potential listeners. The music is built around slightly scratchy guitars , whether electric or acoustic , but augmented by organ ,piano, cello and slightly hollow sounding percussion. One track -San Bernardino" has a full string arrangement and made me wish that more songs on the album had taken that approach.
I can hear influences like The Go Betweens and Midlake but the name that leapt immediately into my cranium was The Violent Femmes, though alas The Mountains Goats have none of their paroxysmal energy or melodic verve. Though Heretic Pride see,s the band step away somewhat from their lo-fi past with some didactically clear production values it paradoxically robs some of the songs of their charm.
When Darnielle actually utilises the elegant higher production values then it all comes together a bit more. Songs Like "Michael Myers Resplendent" "In The Craters Of The Moon" ," Marduck T-Shirt Mens Room Incident" and the aforementioned "San Bernardino" are all made more compelling by the added depth of the arrangements. "New Zion" has a lovely organ melody, and the title track revels in the strident guitar picking.
Bare bones songs like "So Desperate" or "Sept 15 1983" or "Lovecraft In Brooklyn" lack any melodic impact what so ever and the vocals highlight the need for a stronger performer at the microphone. The lyrics are excellent with enthralling characterisations and a central conceit of good faltering in an malevolent world .Which makes it even more of a shame that the album doesn,t have thirteen songs worthy of their articulate virtuosity . As it is though Heretic Pride does have it,s moments it would have been better if it had fully embraced the new uncontaminated direction but then the people who already love them probably would,nt love them anymore which means the album will probably fail in making any new fans for The Mountain Goats.