[This one was written to expand the Org's archives.]
Though he now enjoys a sizeable following thanks to anthems like “This Year,” there was once a point were the Mountain Goats, a.k.a. John Darnielle, were just a guy and a guitar. Supporting characters came and went (bassist Rachel Ware, the Bright Mountain Vocal Choir), but for the most part, it was just Darnielle, consistently turning out the best lyrics and stories ever. You like lo-fi? The majority of TMG’s records were recorded on 20-something-year-old boomboxes, and you can actually hear the tape turning round and round on the recordings. You like concept albums? Try All Hail West Texas, a loose collection of stories “about seven people, two houses, a motorcycle, and a locked treatment facility for adolescent boys.” Arguably his best record since he debuted on CD with Zopilote Machine (P.S. -- this guy used to be cassette-only. The early ’90s were different, man), All Hail West Texas is rife with vivid imagery and bombastic acoustic guitar.
“The best ever death metal band out of
But enough with the emotional baggage. All Hail West Texas feels like the culmination of Darnielle’s boom box aesthetic. This album isn’t just symbolic of the last seven years of my life, it’s symbolic of the lo-fi sound -- lurking in the murky depths is a phantom orchestra, unleashing the most complex constructions you’ve literally ever imagined. I can hear drums buried in the mix, even though I know they’re not really there. It’s fitting then, that
Musically, TMG is pretty basic with just acoustic guitar chords. And Darnielle’s nasally voice can be a deal-breaker for some. His greatest strength lies in his words, although I’d argue that he knows how to deliver a hook or two. Every Mountain Goats record has at least one song that will change your DNA, like The Sunset Tree’s “This Year” or Zopilote Machine’s “Going to
But it’s always moving and beautiful. Darnielle’s songs defy rock expectations by nature of their sound quality, though he also goes to great lengths to bring back sex and God and the blues. Which brings me back to the lo-fi symbolism bit -- deceptively simple, the whole universe (or at least
Now, I’m not going to tell you to listen to All Hail West Texas. I mean, you should, because it’s one of the best albums of all time. But still, it’s your life; do what you want. But I would like you try this: Here are the chords and lyrics to “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton.” Sing it while you’re sober, or drunk, or in that buzzed mid-point where you’re still funny and coherent. I think you might have fun.