Release Date: Feb 19, 2008
Record label: 4AD
The Mountain Goats are, for all practical purposes, the endlessly clever and prolific John Darnielle and whatever musicians he surrounds himself with, which means that while the soundscape may change from project to project, the overall tone and feel of Darnielle's work remains remarkably consistent, an impressive achievement, really, since Heretic Pride is his umpteenth album (and fourth for 4AD), and, as luck would have it, one of his most finely balanced ones at that. Darnielle at his best writes finely observed, slightly surreal, impressionistic vignettes that manage to mix life as we live it with life as we wish we could live it, and as such he has more in common with a short story writer than he does with the typical singer/songwriter. At his worst, he sounds glib, wordy, over wrought and ultimately unbelievable.
Review Summary: Heretic Pride is a stunning, well-rounded piece of music that only The Mountain Goats could pull off.Lyricists have all the freedom in the world; they can write about their trash bin for a spouse, a requiem for a friend who passed, a personal issue, or whatever is brewing in their minds. But with that, lyricists should know two important things: write to their specific demographics and to be extremely careful about crossing that invisible, yet controversial line. Luckily the intellectually-stimulated mind of John Darnielle, better under The Mountain Goats, knows exactly who he is writing for, but also writes on topics that are always less than morbid.
At the center of the Mountain Goats is John Darnielle -- singer, songwriter, and composer of more than four hundred inspired and poetically allusive songs. Over the years, his music expanded from lonely and violent acoustics to a full-on band, but he has consistently nurtured a shadowed optimism, even through the darkest narratives (see 2005's Sunset Tree, an autobiagrophical account of the abuse he suffered as a child). Heretic Pride lifts those shadows -- it's the most optimistic Mountain Goats record yet.
It would be considerate of John Darnielle to include some kind of Mountain Goats decoder with his wordy new song suite, Heretic Pride. As on all Goats records, his lyrics are the focal point, but for some reason Darnielle denies us a lyric sheet, so you find yourself sitting close to the stereo trying to piece together colourful tales of characters and moments. Besides the brooding cover art, there are a few sly nods to Swedish black metal in the bouncy acoustic title track, as well as the sensitively sparse Marduk T-shirt Men’s Room Incident.
If you’ve loved the Mountain Goats’ last several records, you’re probably going to love Heretic Pride, too. Musically, the Goats’ last album, Get Lonely, almost felt placid, and Heretic Pride is a welcome return to the quicker tempos (though not the harrowing autobiographical lyrics) of 2005’s The Sunset Tree. Heretic Pride also features several songs (the title track, “Michael Myers Resplendent,” and “Lovecraft in Brooklyn”) that are likely to become Mountain Goats classics, and John Darnielle’s vocal performance on the title track may actually be his best ever.