The Mountain Goats | Record Review | Indy Week
Pin It

The Mountain Goats 

Heretic Pride
[4AD]

Listen!

If you cannot see the music player below, download the free Flash Player.

click to enlarge 2.20musreview_mtngoats.gif

Three weeks ago, someone asked me what I liked about The Mountain Goats, the nearly two-decades strong project of songwriter John Darnielle, an Indiana-born English major and hospital nurse who lived in Illinois, California, Texas and Iowa before settling in Durham in 2003. Some have said his voice—nasal and with minimal inflection—sounds like nails on a chalkboard, while others have criticized his unsophisticated arrangements—which he's sometimes worn like a badge of honor—as a sign of an incomplete songwriter.

Heretic Pride, the 14th full-length from The Mountain Goats, isn't the band's best record by a Bethesda mile. But, perhaps more than any other, it is uniquely capable of articulating what Darnielle does so well for the uninitiated: His voice has never flashed so much range, and his band—an all-star cast featuring Jon Wurster, Peter Hughes, Scott Solter, John Vanderslice and St. Vincent's Annie Clark—has never offered such vivid and varied interpretations. We get two hard-edged rock songs (the pair of "Craters on the Moon" and "Lovecraft in Brooklyn" is the album's ferocious mid-section); a triptych of gentle (loosely speaking!) love songs ("San Bernadino," "So Desperate," "Marduk T-Shirt Men's Room Incident"); and two songs with meaty, reggae basslines ("New Zion," "Sept. 15, 1983"). If you've ever needed a musical inlet to The Mountain Goats, Heretic Pride may offer it.

More importantly, though, is how well and consistently Darnielle's detail-rich but purposely elliptical songwriting works atop Heretic Pride's multifarious approaches: Darnielle's always been interested in hard-line outsiders who struggle for scraps in a world of suits and straights. As the record's title (borrowed from black metal band Aura Noir) suggests, Darnielle emphasizes the hope of the individual above all else here—the outcast proud to be around. These characters hold heretic pride like a secret creed, doing what they have to do to stay alive or sane or—at worst—to exist with some comfort. Even though the title track's narrator knows he's about to die, he sings, "I feel so proud to be alive." A water monster in China happily swims under cover of night, finding his own recreation, shying from the beautiful people who could see him during the day. Darnielle sees hope in a flimsy female figure in a European disco, a girl in a black metal T-shirt slumped against a sink as she tries to regain her composure. "Stay weightless, formless, blameless, nameless" he sings so sweetly, backed by a two-voice choir. Darnielle's worried the word will break her, that they'll say she won't be OK, as is the case with the new parents in "San Bernadino," who are "holding on to our last hope."

After all, "Every moment leads towards its own sad end. ... All roads lead toward the same blocked intersection," as Darnielle sings on opener "Sax Rohmer #1," casting a net of despair his characters spend the rest of the album working to resist. The Brooklynite who's paranoid like H.P. Lovecraft finds comfort in a switchblade, if nowhere else. The power must be in the person, or in the destitute "San Bernadino" couple clinging to one other, delivering a child in a cheap highway motel. The rest of the world's expectations—of voice, of guitar playing, of accepted faith, of beauty, of stability—can be goddamned.

No upcoming local shows for The Mountain Goats, but Heretic Pride is out now on 4AD. John Darnielle reads from his 33 1/3 book series contribution on Black Sabbath's Master of Reality May 14 at the Regulator Bookshop in Durham.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Record Review



Twitter Activity

Comments

DJWurkz just become a new fan! I will see them live at first opportunity I get.

by Keith Ramon DjWurkz on Record Review: Youth League's Second EP Is a Propulsive, Powerful Effort (Record Review)

I'm all in on this album. Love the sound, love Amelia's soaring vocals. She brings a humanizing element to electronic …

by aburtch on Record Review: Sylvan Esso Refines its Slick Synth Pop Formula on What Now (Record Review)

Most Read

  1. Fall into Music (Music Feature)

Most Recent Comments

DJWurkz just become a new fan! I will see them live at first opportunity I get.

by Keith Ramon DjWurkz on Record Review: Youth League's Second EP Is a Propulsive, Powerful Effort (Record Review)

I'm all in on this album. Love the sound, love Amelia's soaring vocals. She brings a humanizing element to electronic …

by aburtch on Record Review: Sylvan Esso Refines its Slick Synth Pop Formula on What Now (Record Review)

This record is "All Over the Place". I mean that in the best way possible.

by hubbble on Record Review: Trust Trandle's Comfortable Instrumental Hip-Hop (Record Review)

Love it! All the songs are beautiful!

by Jon Champion on Record Review: The Return of The Veldt, The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur: The Drake Equation, Is Great (Record Review)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation