Surrender on Both Sides

by Jim Withington

The new Mountain Goats album, Heretic Pride, drops (as the kids say)(if their slang lags behind) shortly after my thirtieth birthday, and right after that the boys will be playing two shows at the best venue in the world.

If “Sax Rohmer #1,” the leadoff single that the Goats made available for download recently, indicates anything (and let’s face it–of course it does; main Goat Darnielle’s own music fan/thinker status doesn’t make me feel like he’s the kind of guy to decide such a thing lightly), this album will be exactly what I’ve been waiting for.

As albums go, 2006’s Get Lonely was a red wine-buzz of a good one: creeping up, spreading fuzzily, a bit warm and with a little bit of “what did I do to myself?” later on. It wasn’t–and isn’t–an easy listen, quiet where we were used to Darnielle roaring. Perhaps that was the biggest strength of an album made up of things left unsaid.

This new track, though, seems likely to break at any moment into the “hungry for love–ready to drown” chorus from “Linda Blair Was Born Innocent” off of We Shall All Be Healed. It’s similar in cadence, and his “shouty” register has returned. More than that, you can visualize the visceral Darnielle honing in here, stomping around, ranting these lyrics, playing his demons to the crowd (though I imagine he’d bristle at the assumptive narrator/performer conflation I did there), and truly fucking bringing it.

And that’s what we want our music to do, isn’t it? Don’t just amuse me, don’t confuse me, don’t berate me, don’t show off your wizardry or vocabulary–or at least, if you are doing these things, you better be sure you’re fucking bringing it, too. It’s a fine line, and a powerful one, because your audience will love you forever if you succeed–and that’s why this band deserves attention.

What an amazing birthday present this album, and tour, will be.

[audio:01_Sax_Rohmer_1.mp3]

(audio included because this track is already freely available)

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Mountain Goats Tour Dates
4AD’s Heretic Pride page: February 18th release
My Mountain Goats Feature, March 2007, Portland Mercury
themountaingoats.net

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