Music You’ve Been Missing #5

Posts by Alex

How Long You’ve Been
Missing Out
: 6 Years (Released February 2008)
The Album in One
: Classic Mountain Goats style refined by the addition of drummer
Jon Wurster and a small string section.
Defining Lyric: “And
flaming swords may guard the Garden of Eden, But we consulted maps from earlier
days, Dead languages on our tongues, Holding on to our last hope” – San Bernardino

So I discovered The Mountain Goats late one night in the
summer of 2010 while watching IFC around 3 AM. Some cooking show called “Dinner
With the Band”, which I’d never heard of and have yet to see again, was on.
John Darnielle and co. were cooking “death metal steaks” (essentially fried
cauliflower bricks) and performing music from a new album (which wasn’t this
one). [It is worth noting that I’ve been
unable to find this performance until literally just now. Somehow in the last
four years I never thought to google “Mountain Goats death metal steaks”.
check it out.] After watching their oddly loud and emotional acoustic
performance I was hooked. I then systematically listened to everything they had
to offer.
Heretic Pride is a
special kind of beautiful. This is an album that strays from Darnielle’s
conceptual approach to writing albums. Instead unifying the album with one
story, he tells a small story with each song. These narratives are all told
using unusually complex songwriting for the Mountain Goats, accompanied by
Darnielle’s typically nasally, right-there-in-your-ear vocals.
From the driving rhythm of “Sax Rohmer #1” to kick the album
off to the slow and powerful anthem “Michael Meyers Resplendent” to finish it, Heretic Pride is an incredibly diverse
musical journey. To me, the most notable track is “San Bernardino”, a lovely
atmospheric track featuring an incredibly percussive string section. In terms
of story, it doesn’t get better than this, and I’ll just have to let John
Darnielle explain it:
“The two
kids here give birth in a cheap motel somewhere in San Bernardino, probably
right off the freeway, and the young man tries to express his love for the girl
who’s about to give birth. Which she does, and they feel at home in the world,
even though the world isn’t giving them its best yet. I feel hope for them,
because they love each other. I know that that is a corny thing to say, so for
people who have corn allergies I apologize. But these two, they’re going to be
the future, so it’d be awesome if we could give them enough leeway to become
who they’re gonna become, and encourage them when we can. I have a fondness for
them though I barely know them. Their feeling for one another inspires me, is
what it is.” Source
Also of note is the music of “New Zion”, a sound that would
begin to permeate the Mountain Goats songwriting in future releases. Although
it’s a well-traveled sound for them now, it will never be better than this
track, where Jon Wurster’s tasty drum part really adds some flair to the
musical backdrop of a song about a fictional religious cult.
There is just so much to dissect in Heretic Pride. There’s the aggressive and loud “Lovecraft in Brooklyn”,
a short song about a
Chinese lake monster
, and tons of musical depth. Darnielle’s lyrical
prowess is as evident as ever, and the album marks the beginning of my personal
favorite era of Mountain Goats history, the Darnielle/Hughes/Wurster era that
is still in progress today. So what I’m saying is, it’s the perfect time to get
into the Mountain Goats, and Heretic
is the perfect place to start!

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By Jess

A bookworm since the tender age of whenever I stopped chewing on books and started actually reading them. A cat-mom, graphic designer, and introvert originally from Pittsburgh, but now resides in the humid, hot, state of Texas. Cheers!

  • I actually just heard The Mountain Goats for the first time a few days ago. They popped up on one of my Pandora stations. I really like them! I'm going to have to check this album out because it sounds like there are some great stories told through these songs.