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Review: The Mountain Goats- All Eternals Deck by jason
March 9, 2011, 10:00 am
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The Mountain Goats-All Eternals Deck. Merge, 2011.

When I listened to All Eternals Deck for the first time, I started taking notes for this review. I wrote things like “too polished” and “John’s EPs are better than his albums.” I was fully prepared to tell you that Darnielle needs to stick to EPs, like the excellent Moon Colony Bloodbath or Black Pear Tree, and that he needs to keep all that shiny hi-fi equipment away from his nasal, lo-fi voice.

Looking back on this after a couple more listens, I realize that I was half-right. Darnielle does sound his best when the production is subtle, when his acoustic guitar can buzz and his voice can crack with emotion. And on the opening two tracks, “Damn These Vampires” and “Birth of Serpents,” though both great songs, the producer’s sheen distracts from the things that let the real Darnielle shine.

But after those first two songs, that production settles into its seat and observes as the real Darnielle, the old Darnielle, returns to the mic. This album isn’t another Tallahassee. It’s not even another Get Lonely, but it’s much closer than was Heretic Pride, and it almost makes me forget The Life of the World to Come.

When I reviewed The Mountain Goats’ last two albums, I noted that Darnielle seemed to have lost his edge. The songs of All Eternals Deck, while not as sarcastic and bitter as the Mountain Goats have been, are, well, edgy. “The Autopsy Garland,” featuring its dark strings in the background, is sinister and ominous, with Darnielle advising, almost whispering “you don’t want to see these guys without their masks on.” And “For Charles Bronson,” though a much brighter song, evokes a man who was once on the top of his game and is now trying to recapture some of his old glory. And though it might be easy to try to draw a parallel between this and the arc of John Darnielle, after hearing this album, I can see that this is just not true. All Eternals Deck is the best full-length album the Mountain Goats have done in the last few years.

All Eternals Deck comes out on March 29th, from Merge Records.



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