Music Reviews

The Mountain Goats

Ghana

3 Beads of Sweat

Sweet wooden music, such a cleansing relief from the corrosive metal and ichor that I usually pour down my ears. I’m calming down already. I think John Darnielle writes about death metal too, doesn’t he? If I’m not spreading urban myths, suddenly the music of The Mountain Goats makes sooo much more sense. I’m smiling now. You need the quiet to surround you sometimes, it’s essential and beautiful. Speaking of essential…

Essentially, Ghana is the third in a series of three compilations of hard to find (for me at least, but that’s because I’m fucking lazy) Mountain Goats material, from any number of cassettes, compilations, and scratchy 45s. I shamelessly worship the aesthetic that breeds this sort of instinctive music: pick up an instrument, press record, play the song, release the result. All in short order, and of course, repeat. Yes! Rush creativity! Bend it to your will! You will be the muse and dictate the pace and volume of the work! Quantity and quality can comfortably co-exist, and finally, don’t be a goofball and over-analyze writing and recording a song. John Darnielle sure didn’t, and I can’t help but notice that there are 31 (!!) crackerjack songs on the record, and two more volumes where that came from. And no track is much longer than three minutes. Take that! And that!

There’s not a single bum note on this record, but to be sure there are certain treasured highlights. “Pure Gold” has a neato Sid Barrett-y lyrical bent and some sugar sweet backing vocals. “Song For John Davis” hosts an inexplicably sad lyric about the snow coming down on New Hampshire today (New England-centered lyrics rule for their rustic vibes) and some plaintive strumming. “Going to Port Washington” is my hands-down favorite, originally sent out as part of a friend’s wedding invitation seven-inch (!), with some great male-female vocal interaction, wintery ecstatic lyrics and crisp and fragile guitars. Brrr – fucking awesome. “The Only Thing I Know” is so terrifically sad, full of Dylan-y harmonica and regrets on the end of a relationship. “Hatha Hill” is plunged into an impossibly dark void by the deft atmospherics of Alastair Galbraith – holy shit, that’s good. “The Last Day of Jimi Hendrix’s Life” does the impossible by not being all crass and smarmy, and somehow becoming totally evocative by focusing on tiny details of everyday life. “Going To Jamaica,” one of many “Going To…” songs on the record, is just so perfect pop, from the words to the music. This could be a hit, man.

Okay I’m gonna stop before I have to field questions as to whether or not I’m a PR for The Mountain Goats. I’m not, but… Ghana is a very pure and functional record, music made for the sheer joy of creating sound, and hopefully, the joy of listening. Guitar parts may repeat but the feeling is always new. The only ambition is to be timeless and wonderful.

3 Beads of Sweat Records: http://www.3bos.com


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