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Review: The Mountain Goats-The Life of the World to Come by jason
October 14, 2009, 11:58 am
Filed under: Mountain Goats, Review

by jason

TMG-The-Life-of-the-World-to-Come

In discussing The Mountain Goats’ biblically-themed album The Life of the World to Come, appropriately enough, I feel I should confess a few things. First of all, I am a hard-core, take-no-prisoners fan of the Goats. When I got to meet John Darnielle, Praised Be His Name, I was so star struck that I cut the conversation short rather than make an ass out of myself. Secondly, I am not a Christian, and Christian Contemporary Music, or actually, any contemporary religious music, annoys the piss out of me.

These two facts should, I think, cancel each other out and allow me a relatively unbiased review. I hope.

So…the album. I remember reading the review that Under the Radar gave the album, and I thought to myself, “those pretentious pricks gave the album 5 out of ten ‘blips’ because it’s a religiously-themed album.” Then, I received the album on vinyl through the mail, and I listened to it eagerly the first chance I got. And, unfortunately, I have to agree with those “pricks.”

It’s not a bad album. Really, it’s not. It’s just…bland. On the first few listens, I really hoped that it was not the themes of the album that bugged me, and I hoped that, taking into account my disappointment in 2007’s Heretic Pride that has been slowly growing since I got over the initial hype, I wasn’t becoming That Guy. You know…the one who says “Yeah, they’re good, but their early stuff, from before you heard of them, was better.”

Neither is the case. I’ve put my finger on what bothers me the most. The Goats have in the past made their reputation with their edgy, sarcastic lyrics, sometimes set to music that contradicts the meaning. That’s what is missing from this album…the edge.

I mean, Darnielle seems, for the most part, happy on this album. Don’t get me wrong; I won’t begrudge someone for being happy. I’m not That Guy either. But there’s a point where this optimism ceases to be uplifting and just becomes boring.

It’s not all disappointing. I am a sucker for a concept album, and the concept here is that these are things Darnielle has learned from the Bible. Interesting concept? Check. Also, this album feels like an album, rather than a collection of songs, like the aforementioned Heretic Pride (and I know that was also technically a concept album, but it didn’t feel like one…). So as a whole, it has those things going for it.

Also, some of these songs are beautiful. “1 Samuel 15:23” is great, and would have also sounded at home on the Black Pear Tree EP (An awesome EP, btw). “Psalms 40:2,” which they performed on The Colbert Report, is as edgy as the group gets on this album. “Genesis 30:3” is probably my favorite track, is almost heartbreakingly beautiful, as is the final track, “Ezikiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace.”

The main problem is that the other songs, for the most part, seem like bland, adult contemporary stuff. Especially the not-so-blatantly-religious “Genesis 3:23,” which just rubs me entirely the wrong way, from the repeated “I used to live here” chorus to that annoying keyboard riff. It might be my least favorite Mountain Goats song.

So, my recommendation? If you are a fan of The Mountain Goats, give it a listen. If you like Christian Contemporary, try this album. If you have never heard the Mountain Goats, pick up Tallahassee, The Sunset Tree, or, if you are lucky enough to find a copy, All Hail West Texas. But don’t let The Life of the World to Come be your first exposure to the Mountain Goats, unless this album really sounds like it’s your thing.

5.5 out of ten stars.

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[…] The Mountain Goats-The Life of the World to Come You can’t spin gold all the time, and out of, what? 17 albums? this is the only Mountain Goats album that I am not in love with. It might have been in the “Meets expectations” catagory if it had been from anyone other than tMG. I dunno. Maybe it will grow on me. I didn’t like Get Lonely when it came out, but now, I love that album. I gave it a full review HERE. […]

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