Record Review: The Mountain Goats- Satanic Messiah EP

12 10 2008

 

I spent a cool six dollars and sixty-six cents on a record today; I apparently earned the level of “Devotee” in doing so. I think that I’m fine with that, anything for John. For some background information, here’s what he wrote about it on his website:

Remember when I used to release a lot of EPs? Like, one or two a year, even? And how they weren’t album tracks, but self-contained kinda deal actual EPs, as God intended? Perhaps you do not remember, on account of that was a long time ago. It doesn’t matter whether you remember or not, really, since I am telling you now, just so we’ll all be on the same page. The point is that I was thinking about how much I used to like making EPs. Writing them, recording them, releasing them. So I went out to Baucom Road, which is Scott Solter’s studio in western North Carolina, and I recorded four new songs. And then I sent them to a pressing plant, where they’re being turned into a double-7″ in a hi-gloss UV gatefold sleeve with covers designed by Horse and Buggy Press featuring artwork by Aeron Alfrey. This record will be available in a limited edition of 666 copies. It will only be available at shows.

“But wait!” I hear some of you saying. “If I send you some money will you send me a copy?” Let me answer this question once, and once only, and for all time: no. What you will be able to do, though, is download the whole EP from a dedicated site that we’re setting up right now. I hope/expect/pray that the site will be ready within a month or so. The songs will be available in both MP3 and AAC formats at high resolutions, and also, if I can figure out how to make and seed a torrent, as AIFFs, which digitally speaking is the best way to hear them, since Scott Solter is an awesome producer. The downloads will be open to everybody, with no hoops to jump through, though there will also be several options available for those who want to pay me for my work, since part of the point of the exercise is to see whether that’s a viable route for smaller-potatoes-than-Radiohead dudes like me. But we’ll cross that bridge when we drive the frightened horses across it. With their covered wagons behind them on fire. And the devil, scrawny and crazed, riding behind them on an Italian greyhound.

The four-song EP is an enjoyable, stripped down experience, featuring only Darnielle’s vocals, guitar and some piano. Darnielle once said, “Everybody else assumes the louder I sing, the more deeply I’m feeling the emotions, and I do try to oblige, but it’s the quiet moments where the shadows sort of start to flesh themselves out.”

Quiet moments are something that The Mountain Goats specialize in and the first track is a great example of that. The first track also serves as the title track, a hushed piano ballad that could be played in a candle lit bar where the clientele regularly tear up into their drinks, conversing to others about lost loves and their now distant youth. The second track does nothing to alleviate the mood, but that’s a good thing. The repeated refrain of, “Starving to death, starving to death, for the low hanging fruit” is a fun one. The next song loses the piano that was so prominent during the first seven minutes and gains guitar a and some well placed string parts. The song serves as a scene change between acts, giving the characters enough time to change, rehearse a bit and to discuss the earlier performances. The last song is reminiscent of “Wild Sage”, the way that the piano drifts in and out, quietly ascending and descending with the mood. The chorus is lovely… It’s beautiful… It gets me every time. 

 

 Fabakis Rating: 8.1

Purchase or download here: http://satanicmessiah.com/

 

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2 responses

12 10 2008
Gavin Philips

I’m cautious about artists who proliferate as much work as this guy does. It makes me question whether or not they’ve really put any effort into, y’know, perfecting their art?

12 10 2008
fabakis

Darnielle can be hit or miss at times… His early work is a tad bit difficult to decipher, and he’ll sometimes attempt to over-produce songs with lush arrangements. It’s kind of funny how that works out, the panasonic boombox to a string quartet to the stripped down record to the boombox etc. etc.

I imagine that he just has so much to write about that he has to put it on tape in order to keep on doing what he does. However, I still think that The Mountain Goats have one of the more consistently-good catalogues around. Anyways… He should care, that is only if he cares about his career and his fanbase.

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