Mountain Goats


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Zopilote Machine , 7/10
Sweden , 7/10
Nothing For Juice , 6.5/10
Full Force Galesburg, 6/10
The Coroner's Gambit , 6/10
All Hail West Texas , 6/10
Tallahassee , 7/10
We Shall All Be Healed (2004), 5.5/10
The Sunset Tree (2005), 6.5/10
Get Lonely (2006), 5.5/10
Heretic Pride (2008), 6/10
The Life Of The World To Come (2009), 5.5/10
Extra Glenns: Martial Arts Weekend (2002), 4/10
Extra Lens: Undercard (2010), 4/10
All Eternals Deck (2011), 6/10
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Mountain Goats, John Darnielle's project, was a bizarre experiment for voice, acoustic guitar and cheap organ whose major career was devoted to concept albums such as Zopilote Machine (1994), Sweden (1995), and Tallahassee (2003), mostly about disintegrating relationships, which were as lyrically ambitious as musically humble.
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Mountain Goats e` il progetto di John Darnielle, cantautore Californiano armato soltanto della sua voce e di una chitarra acustica che ha alle spalle una discografia sterminata (anche se poco su CD).

Taboo VI (Shrimper) e The Hound Chronicles (Shrimper, 1992) sono le sue prime cassette, l'EP 7" Songs For Petronius (Shrimper, 1992) il primo vinile. Ai tempi delle otto canzoni dell'EP 10" Beautiful Rat Sunset (Shrimper, 1992) si trattava di un quartetto. Per l'EP 7" Chile De Arbol (Ajax, 1993), con l'arguta Fresh Berries For You, era rimasto solo Darnielle. Gli fece seguito l'EP 7" Philyra (Theme Park, 1994). Presto al suo fianco rimase soltanto la bassista Rachel Ware. Randy Newman venne chiamato in causa per la cassetta Transmissions From Horace (Sonic Enemy, 1994), in particolare per le melodie di Star Dusting, Beach House e Alpha Desperation March. Hot Garden Stomp (Shrimper, 1993) e Taking The Dative (Car In Car Disco) sono le cassette successive.

The double-disc The Hound Chronicles & Hot Garden Stomp (Shrimper, 2012) collects two of the early cassettes.

Zopilote Machine (Ajax, 1994 - 3 Beads of Sweat, 2005) fu la prima opera maggiore, un lungo concept dedicato a due amanti che stanno per lasciarsi (vi compare Going To Georgia). Gli EP 7" Songs About Fire (Cassiel, 1995) e Songs For Peter Hughes (Sonic Sound, 1995) continuano ad agitare i suoi fantasmi interiori, forti soltanto di voce, chitarra acustica e organo Casio.

Il singolo 7" Orange Raja Blood Royal (Walt, 1995) con l'arrangiamento del violinista Alastair Galbraith, segna l'approdo allo stile maturo. The Only Thing I Know, Hatha Hill e Raja Vocative sono canzoni al confine fra il lo-fi dei Sebadoh e il country anemico dei Palace Brothers. Darnielle ha nel frattempo stretto amicizie importanti: il cantautore neozelandese Alastair Galbraith, Peter Hughes (Nothing Painted Blue), Allan Callaci (Refrigerator).
L'EP Nine Black Poppies (Emperor Jones, 1995), con Cubs In Five e Stars Fell On Alabama, Going To Utrecht e I Know You've Come To Take My Toys Away, ne risente l'influenza positiva.

Sweden (Shrimper, 1995), un altro concept ambizioso (19 canzoni, fra cui Snow Crash Killing Song) lo consacra ai vertici del cantautorato indipendente.

Nothing For Juice (Ajax, 1996 - 3 Beads of Sweat, 2005) snocciola alcune delle sue migliori canzoni: Alabama Nova, Moon And Sand, Going To Scotland, Going To Kansas. Rachel Ware lascia durante le registrazioni dell'album.

Per Full Force Galesburg (Emperor Jones, 1997), che comprende sedici canzoni, non meno acustiche che in passato, si scomodano Alastair Galbraith e Peter Hughes (Nothing Painted Blue), mentre la sua tradizionale spalla, Rachel Ware, e` per lo piu` latitante. Il disco straripa di delicati pastelli come Snow Owl e Evening In Stalingrad, e Darnielle talvolta veste i panni del tradizionale menestrello folk (Masher). Nulla di spettacolare, ma certamente una voce sincera e appassionata. Un piccolo capolavoro c'e`, comunque: Weekend On Western Illinois, che si avvita in maniera epica su frasi di chitarra e organo.

Protein Source Of The Future (Ajax, 1999), Bitter Melon Farm (Ajax, 2000) and Ghana (3 Beads of Sweat, 2002) compile early singles and rarities.

Featuring a completely new line-up behind Darnielle, The Coroner's Gambit (Absolutely Kosher, 2001) offers the first new material in three years, seasoned with haiku-like lyrics ("Baseballs travel further when you watch them fly") that enhance the metaphysical quality of these gothic stories.

All Hail West Texas (Emperor Jones, 2002) is yet another treasure chest of witty and catchy folk-pop ditties for voice and guitar. John Darnielle is in splendid form as he fakes a reprise of Freewheelin'-period Bob Dylan in The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton, as he borrows a posture and a melody from Cat Stevens (Riches And Wonders), as he howls the serenade to Jenny in a tremulous tone, The album boasts an impressive parade of tuneful vignettes, occasionally bordering on Jonathan Richman-ian greatness (Pink And Blue, Fall Of The Star High School Running Back), occasionally echoing epic tones of the Sixties. It goes to Darnielle's credit (to his guitar playing, humble albeit forceful) that the songs do not sound spare and thin, even though the backing band is only one instrument.
The only flaw of this album, as with all of Darnielle's albums, is that he does not let his genius fly. Songs are truncated after two minutes, revealing only a glimpse of what they could be in the hands of a more cunning songwriter, stories focus on the... story, rather than soaring into metaphysical odes. Check Blues In Dallas for evidence of what a little leeway can do.
The talent is indisputable. Give him a producer and he will become a star.

Tallahassee (4AD, 2003), a concept album about a couple and their disintegrating relationship, is orchestrated with the help of multi-instrumentalist Peter Hughes and played by a real band. While Darnielle still serves old-fashioned folk vignettes (Tallahassee, International Small Arms Traffic Blues) and bluesy dirges (The House That Dripped Blood), a more assertive style (First Few Desperate Hours) sometimes pulsing like a Velvet Underground boogie (Southwood Plantation Road, See America Right), a deeper melodic content Alpha Rats Nest), and lightly psychedelic touches (Game Shows Touch Our Lives, Old College Try, with echoes of Bob Dylans' Blonde On Blonde) make it a much more accomplished collection than the previous one. The epic pessimism of No Children and the virulent roots-rock of Oceanographer's Choice recall Warren Zevon. Darnielle has finally topped his debut.

Now that Darnielle has disposed with any youthful inhibition, Mountain Goats albums sound like proclaims of hard-fought self-determination. Alas, We Shall All Be Healed (4AD, 2004) is also unusually un-musical: Darnielle shouts rather than sing, and the band provides a generic loud-rock accompaniment. There seems to be precious little integration and coherence (and inventiveness) in the playing. Several punkish sermons recall the Mekons or Billy Bragg. The Quito is perhaps the best of this emphatic batch. But it is telling that the most dramatic moment, Mole, relies on simple declamation and sparse, psychological accompaniment; and another highlight is the bard of Slow West Vultures, who displays the calm existential pensiveness of a Paul Simon. Also more successful is the closing tragicomic ode, Triumph of Pigs That Ran Straightaway Into The Water, that shifts to a sardonic tone. Despite a few major additions to his canon, Darnielle may have invested too much on the lyrics, and forgotten that there is a difference between journalism and music.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Paolo Latini)

Protein Source Of The Future (Ajax, 1999), Bitter Melon Farm (Ajax, 2000) e Ghana (3 Beads of Sweat, 2002) raccolgono i primi singoli e qualche rarità.

The Coroner's Gambit (Absolutely Kosher, 2001) offre nuovo materiale dopo tre anni, stagionati da liriche simil-haiku ("Baseballs travel further when you watch them fly") che ampliano la qualità metafisica di queste storie gotichethat enhance the metaphysical quality of these gothic stories.

All Hail West Texas (Emperor Jones, 2002) è un altro tesoro nascosto di lucide e orecchiabili miniature folk-pop per voce e chitarra. John Darnielle è in forma smagliante quando simula una ripresa del periodo Freenwheelin' di Bob Dylan in The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton, quando prende a prestito postura e melodia da Cat Stevens (Riches And Wonders), quando ulula la serenata a Jenny in un tono tremolante. Il disco racchiude un'impressionante quantità di vignette melodicissime, di quando in quando reminiscenti della grandezza di Jonathan Richman (Pink And Blue, Fall Of The Star High School Running Back), e occasionalmente facendo eco ai sapori dei Sixties. È merito di Darnielle (al suo stile chitarristico, umile ma vigoroso) se le canzoni non annaspano, anche se la band di supporto è trattata come un solo strumento.
L'unica pecca di questo disco, come in tutti i dischi di Darnielle, è che l'autore non lascia libero il suo genio. Le canzoni sono troncate dopo due minuti, rivelando solo scampoli di quello che potrebbero essere nelle mani di un più scaltro, storie che si basano su... storie, piuttosto che perdersi in odi metafisiche. Si ascolti Blues In Dallas per capire cosa un piccolo margine di tempo può fare.
Niente da dire sul suo talento. Solo dategli un produttore, e diventerà una star.

Tallahassee (4AD, 2003), un concept album su una coppia e la sua realzione alla deriva, è realizzato con l'aiuto del polistrumentista Peter Hughes e suonato da una vera e propria band. Mentre Darnielle continua a dispensare vignette folk d'altri tempi (Tallahassee, International Small Arms Traffic Blues) e momenti più blues (The House That Dripped Blood), uno stile più assertivo (First Few Desperate Hours) a volte pulsante come un boogie dei Velvet Underground (Southwood Plantation Road, See America Right), un più profondo contenuto melodico Alpha Rats Nest), e leggeri tocchi psichedelici (Game Shows Touch Our Lives, Old College Try, con echi del Bob Dylan di Blonde On Blonde) rendono questo lavoro ben più consistente del precedente. Il pessimismo epico di No Children e il virulento roots-rock di Oceanographer's Choice ricordano Warren Zevon. Darnielle ha finalmente eguagliato il suo debutto.

Ora che Darnielle ha messo da parte ogni inibizione giovanile, gli album dei Mountain Goats sembrano proclami di dura autodeterminazione. Ahimé We Shall All Be Healed (4AD, 2004) è solo un un-musical inusuale: Darnielle grida più che cantare, e il gruppo provvede a dare un accompagnamento rock dimesso. Sembra esserci poca integrazione e coerenza (ed inventiva) nel modo di suonare. Molti sermoni punk ricordano i Mekons o Billy Bragg. Quito è probabilmente la miglore tra queste danze enfatiche. Ma ciò vale a dire che il momento più drammatico, Mole, poggia su mere declamazioni e un accompagnamento spartano e psicologico; e un altro highlight è il bardo Slow West Vultures, che mostra la calma esistenziale di un Paul Simon. Ancor più successo ha l'ode tragicomica posta in chiusura, Triumph of Pigs That Ran Straightaway Into The Water, che scivola in un tono sardonico. Al di là di qualche aggiunta al suo canone, Darnielle deve aver investito troppo nei testi, e aver dimenticato che già molta differenza tra giornalismo e musica.

The autobiographical concept The Sunset Tree (4AD, 2005) is a much more sincere and heartfelt work than its predecessor. The touching arrangements (particularly Erik Friedlander's cello) are never overbearing, the pace is solemn without being pompous, the melodies are simple without being trivial. The cozy, homey touch is reminiscent of Tallahassee, and songs such as You Or Your Memory, Dance Music and This Year find their space in this habitat without much struggling. Despite the deeply affecting stories that he relates, traumas doe not exist in these songs. What emanates from them is, instead, almost a sense of peace, quiet and balance. This is an album about "leaving behind" teenagehood, not about it.

The EP Babylon Springs (4AD, 2006) contains Sometimes I Still Feel The Bruise.

Get Lonely (4AD, 2006), featuring Franklin Bruno, Peter Hughes, multi-instrumentalist Scott Solter, cellist Erik Friedlander and drummer Corey Fogel, continued the autobiographical strand but in a more spartan setting. Far less cathartic, austere and shocking, this installment of Darnielle's chronicles is devoted to rather trivial events in a rather subtle way (Get Lonely).

After a trilogy of disturbingly autobiographic works, John Darnielle's topics turned more extroverted on Heretic Pride (4AD, 2008), so that the lush arrangements of the new course actually started making sense. In The Craters on the Moon, New Zion, How to Embrace A Swamp Creature, and especially Lovecraft in Brooklyn (replete with sobbing guitar, loping chorus, visceral shouting, dissonant sounds) are Darnielle at his atmospheric-storytelling best, but the most intriguing piece is Erik Friedlander's creation San Bernadino for voice and cello. Tuneful opener Sax Rohmer #1 and title-track Heretic Pride even unleash a rocker's energy (not least thanks to the rhythm section of drummer Jon Wurster and bassist Peter Hughes), but Darnielle remains first and foremost a chronicler of private apocalypses.

The "Biblical" concept The Life Of The World To Come (4AD, 2009), whose songs have titles taken from the Bible, indulges in apocalyptic atmospheres and laconic tales, sometimes penned by piano and strings instead of the usual guitar. For a burst of emphatic and aggressive preaching in Psalms 40:2 and a bit of uplifting pathos in the catchy serenade Genesis 30:3 (a` la Don McLean's American Pie) one is treated to a funeral of elegiac tunes such as Samuel 15:23 (that nonetheless hides an anthemic riff worthy of Jimi Hendrix), Ezekiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace and Deuteronomy 2:11, as well as to odd rhythmic hybrids such as Hebrews 11:40, Matthew 25:21 and Romans 10:9. This erudite work is fascinating as a concept but less than rewarding as a musical work.

The EP Black Pear Tree (self released, 2009) was a collaboration between John Darnielle and Kaki King. The EP Moon Colony Bloodbath (self released, 2009) was a collaboration between John Darnielle and John Vanderslice.

John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats and Franklin Bruno of Nothing Painted Blue joined forces in Extra Glenns and released Martial Arts Weekend (Absolutely Kosher, 2002). Years later they changed name in Extra Lens and released Undercard (Merge, 2010). Both were largely irrelevant.

The trajectory of the Mountain Goats (still the trio of Darnielle, bassist Peter Hughes and Superchunk's drummer Jon Wurster) towards overproduced pop music continued via All Eternals Deck (Merge, 2011). While still a folk album at heart, the sound was a state-of-the-art multi-layered delicacy, mixing doo-wop and Donovan-esque folk in High Hawk Season, evoking Van Morrison's soul shuffles with Damn These Vampires and launching into cowpunk frenzy in Estate Sign Sale.

Darnielle is also the author of novels such as "Universal Harvester" (2016).

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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