It seems like it has been a long time since the release of the last Mountain Goats album, 2009’s The Life of the World to Come. While this may not seem like much for the average band, consider that in the early 1990’s there were years in which two albums would come out. Granted these albums were recorded straight to boombox with no production — that didn’t detract from its amazing lyrics or musical quality.
Let us now look at the music on this magnificent record, which was more than worth the wait. I will only hi-light two tracks but rest assured that each one is worth its weight in gold.
The first track, Damn These Vampires, starts the record off with a kick. It is a tale, sadly enough, of people unfortunate enough to be captured by vampires. Darnielle painfully sings, “Feast like pagans / Never get enough / Sleep like dead men / Wake up like dead men.” It’s rough going for those who have been turned by vampires into vampiric creatures because they do, indeed, live a life of death. Here they are playing the song at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C.
I was quite impressed by the song “High Hawk Season” for employing the services of a genuine barbershop quartet. I remember hearing it for the first time in the office where I work and everyone more or less had the same reaction. That reaction was that of simultaneous confusion and awe. The barbershop quartet background works very well for this song but when I heard it without said quartet (when he played it live on stage by himself) I found that it was an impressive song that way as well.
It bears mentioning that there was just a little sadness involved in getting this album, as excellent as it is. The morning I found out that it was available for pre-order, I saw that the first 500 pre-orders would get a copy of demos and other songs that did not manage to get onto the album in cassette form, the j-card being hand colored. I ordered immediately and thought I was surely one of the first five hundred.
A week or so later, my colleague at work told me that the announcement had actually been made the evening prior to that morning and that the five hundred copies had all sold out due to the fact that a person got the cassette whether they pre-ordered the vinyl or the cd — something I felt wasn’t fair to classic Mountain Goats fans, but in fact was my way of just whining a little bit. I still had a chance of getting either a clear copy of the vinyl, of which 880 were pressed, or blue, of which 120 were pressed — as opposed to black, with 3000 copies. That should tell you something about the state of vinyl in this country — even when Eric Clapton is releasing music on vinyl, it’s not in the hundreds of thousands of copies as the cds are, and this is due to the incredible difference in making a cd versus pressing a vinyl record.
My colleague ended up getting a black copy with no cassette, a couple of days before the record was set to come out (March 29.) I thought I would be getting it at least on the 29th but it did not show up at the office. It actually didn’t come for over a week afterward, at which point I was so relieved to see it that I didn’t care what color it was or whether it had a cassette or not. It turns out that it had no cassette and was clear.