The Mountain Goats – Heretic Pride (2008): Review

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Produced by John Vanderslice and Scott Solter
Label – 4AD

John Darnielle’s small band of worshippers will have been undoubtedly impressed by “Heretic Pride”. The singer/songwriter has an undeniable talent for crafting wordy, original lines that either paint interesting thematic landscapes on various objects, or he can be intensely personal with equal effect. What he does lack is an ability to portray his ideas through memorable and original music, and sadly, the record suffers from drab tunes that simply don’t support his lyrical intent. This isn’t helped by his weedy voice, which actually sounds worse when he attempts to sound quietly tender (“So Desperate”). Conversely, when the guitars are cranked up as on “Lovecraft In Brooklyn”, his delivery is more assured, almost sneeringly passionate as he competes with the strident riff.

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The melodies are often elementary, perfunctory vehicles for Darnielle’s message; almost nursery rhyme folk which follows tried and trusted routes where the listener can second guess which direction they’re heading next. That’s not to suggest that there aren’t highlights though, and along with the angular “Lovecraft In Brooklyn”, the reflective, string laden “San Bernadino”, and with the richly detailed title track there’s enough to keep the collection from being a wholly tiresome experience.

There isn’t a musical move you haven’t heard in some form already, but give Darnielle credit for his prolific and occasionally distinguished song craft. If only he could consistently reproduce it over the length of a thirteen track long player.

6/10

Track Listing
1. “Sax Rohmer #1” 3:41
2. “San Bernardino” 3:19
3. “Heretic Pride” 3:43
4. “Autoclave” 3:34
5. “New Zion” 2:55
6. “So Desperate” 3:21
7. “In the Craters on the Moon” 3:32
8. “Lovecraft in Brooklyn” 3:49
9. “Tianchi Lake” 3:20
10. “How to Embrace a Swamp Creature” 3:27
11. “Marduk T-Shirt Men’s Room Incident” 3:21
12. “September 15 1983” 3:43
13. “Michael Myers Resplendent” 2:52

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