The Mountain Goats - All Eternals Deck
Release Date: March 29, 2011
Record Label: Merge
Listening to The Mountain Goats is like entering a different world. All the places have the same names and you recognize some of the people, but somehow everything is different. And you like it, but you may not be sure why. It takes a while for the thought to bubble up. You follow the interstates and escape routes, the foibles and festers, the birth of evil and the fall from grace like a winding path somehow near your own but distant. You stare into the face of your own evil twin only to realize that he's you and you're him. John Darnielle and company's newest record All Eternals Deck out now on Merge is one of the most staid in the band's expansive catalog. The song structures are tight and honed and well-trod. The instrumentation is beguilingly simple and subtle. The names you already know -- Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Charles Bronson.
Yet each time you step into the river it moves away. There are even points where The Mountain Goats don't sound quite like you're used to. "Damn These Vampires" and "Birth of Serpents" seem downright upbeat. "For Charles Bronson" is about as close to comedy as you've heard the band turn. And for the old-schoolers who still have cassettes of The Hound Chronicles the entire notion of a band is a little out of place. But here they are sounding at points like a doo-wop group and at other points like chamber music.
Pardon the pun, but unsteady terrain is where The Mountain Goats thrive. In the contradictions and collisions. In the actress going under and the snake being born. If there's a disease we've picked up this year its been in the complacency of genius. Radiohead's last album showed it and this one does as well. The Mountain Goats are too good at what they do. Darnielle's gift for character introspection, unrivaled by anyone else working today, seems to fall on deaf ears. And if anything All Eternals Deck is a reminder to the listener to keep listening. To keep searching out. To get far from home and know how to never get back. We're not so much like we used to be and we're like we never will be again. It's the cutting of the personal that charges this album with undeniable potency. The implacable placement of the man willing to look inside in the world that wants to look beyond. Thankfully, it's territory that Darnielle's comfortable with and the album shines like the songs of a man who is too used to telling us about the death of the world that at this point, when it comes, he even sounds a little happy about it.