I’m not sure I’ve got anything intelligent to tell you about All Eternals Deck, the new Mountain Goats album, but I felt I ought to write something as I’ve been living with the thing for a week now and it’s got its claws into me deeper than anything since, well, All Hail West Texas by the same band about fourteen months ago (did I mention I really love this group?) This is a slow burner for sure: thirteen generally mid-paced songs, clearly and sparely recorded without much in the way of hooks and riffs and catchy choruses and, unlike most recent Goats albums, with not much in the way of a theme to link the tracks together and give you a way to get a handle on the typically obscure lyrical references (there’s a lot of dread and fear of extinction about, but isn’t there always?) There are no obvious standout tracks or singles. It took me two or three listens before I even began to hear it properly.
Right now though, it’s sounding like a masterwork, one of those rare records that just keeps giving no matter how often you come back to it. Every time I play it I seem to pick up something extra, usually from the lyrics (for example, I’ve just caught this, from Prowl Great Cain: “sometimes a great wave of forgetfulness rises up and blesses me/and other times the sickness howls and I despair of any remedy”) but sometimes from a detail of the consistently restrained and subtle musical backing. Gradually the songs differentiate themselves into discrete (and often discreet) little gems – you notice the close harmony backing on High Hawk Season, that the thrashy Estate Sign Sale is being thrashed on acoustic guitars, that Sourdoire Valley Song appears to be a defence of Neanderthal man and that the soaring Never Quite Free is the closest this band may ever get to a power ballad. Favourite tracks at the minute: Damn These Vampires (“God damn these bite marks/deep in my arteries”) and Birth Of Serpents (“see that young man who dwells inside his body like an uninvited guest”), though I’m going to struggle to make either fit in neatly on our traditional end-of-the-year round-up CD. I’ve got a feeling I’m going to be returning to this album at a later date, by which time I might be able to provide you maps and compasses to help you traverse it. For now, it’s definitely a revelation, I’m just not quite sure what of.