- The Mountain Goats
- We Shall All Be Healed
- February 03, 2004
Sometimes, a brilliant musician is an extreme perfectionist, who releases one or two top-notch albums and remains infuriatingly silent forever thereafter. Fortunately, John Darnielle - guitarist, singer, songwriter, and driving force behind the Mountain Goats - is not one of them. We Shall All Be Healed is the latest of the Mountain Goats' prolific catalog of now seventeen full-length albums, and it shows Darnielle (with band) as at the top of his game as he ever was.
As with 2002's Tallahassee, the Goats' first release on 4AD, We Shall All Be Healed is without the staticky tape-hiss always present in their signature ultra lo-fi sound - Mountain Goats songs tended to be recorded via boombox - as it was recorded and engineered by John Vanderslice. While the analog fuzz of their previous albums was a surprisingly important addition to them, the Goats' music translates unsurprisingly well to digital clarity. Also, here, Darnielle is most often accompanied by other Mountain Goats, and the backing Goats add beautifully to the product. The digital mixture, while possessing a much different sound than, say, Protein Source of the Future .. Now!, is classic Goats.
And this is because Darnielle's songwriting skills are ridiculous. After, according to themountaingoats.net, 403 written songs, he still manages to crank out another combination of strange, intelligent, emotional lyrics and perfect instrumentation. While he does have his low points - for example, "Mole", which is followed so perfectly by "Home Again Garden Grove" that it's overlookable - he's a remarkably prolific and consistently outstanding songwriter and musician.
And singer. With his alarming range of emotion, however nasal it gets, Darnielle will win you over with sincerity. Even when he's not singing; when he declares, "The story of the pigs that ran straight away into the water and their, uh, great triumph," you believe it. However goofy his lyrics can become at times, his straightforward but unique sincerity will make you believe it all.
The flat dictation in "All Up the Seething Coast" recalls Brian McMahan's quiet narration of Slint's "Good Morning Captain", as well as its beautifully eerie guitar. "Home Again Garden Grove" is the most similar to Goats of old; Darnielle sings and plays guitar alone, and his impassioned shout cracks with static in places. The song also brings to mind Neutral Milk Hotel's "Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone" if Jeff Mangum were feeling particularly loud.
"Palmcorder Yajna" is the first single from the album, and is one of the most likable of the bunch, due in large part to its upbeat presentation. Conversely, another of the most likable is "Cotton", a quieter and infinitely more depressing tune, a sad but hopeful combination of beautifully minimal piano and depressing lyrics - "This song is for the soil that's toxic clear down to the bedrock / Where no thing of consequence can grow / Drop your seeds there, let them go / Let them all go / Let 'em all go." The song also features a particularly likable drum solo, quiet, behind everything else. "Against Pollution" features a striking combination of standard uplifting guitar progressions, overlaid with "When I worked down at the liquor store / Guy with a shotgun came raging through the place / Muscled his way behind the counter / I shot him in the face." It aims to grab your attention, and it works.
The whole album works. The whole album is outstandingly written and outstandlingly performed. It will move you and uplift you, confuse you and delight you, and whatever Darnielle's singing about, he means it, he really means it.
- Noah Jackson
- Slow West Vultures
- Palmcorder Yajna
- Linda Blair Was Born Innocent
- Letter From Belgium
- The Young Thousands
- Your Belgian Things
- Home Again Garden Grove
- All Up the Seething Coast
- Against Pollution
- Pigs that Ran Straight Away Into the Water, Triumph Of