The Mountain Goats
The Life of the World to Come



by fogza USER (16 Reviews)
July 29th, 2013 | 5 replies

Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An album which drowns in ill-conceived sentimentality.

Up until now, I had only heard a few Mountain Goats singles. They were one of those bands (although as far as I can tell, it’s more of moniker for the solo artist John Darnielle) I swore I'd get round to - I liked the simple instrumentation and viciously lo-fi recording attacking me in the headphones. This was also coupled with a guy who sounded like he really really wanted you to hear what he had to say, with extreme prejudice. I finally decided to dip my toes into a full length and chose this one as a diving plank.

Don't get me wrong. I like earnest, personal music - it's a character flaw. But this is a bit much. Some of it sounds like the climax of an episode of Grey's when something 'significant' has happened. Musically, it's very simple - a little piano and strummed guitar, occasionally some violin. Lots of bass-y drums for a soft backdrop. Often a verse is constructed from resonant single piano notes or chords on the more sombre tracks. There's also a chipper, bubbly guitar sound on songs like 'Philippians 3:20-21', which has a particularly ‘Girl from Ipanema’ feel. One of the most horrendous melodic fills is to be found on 'Genesis 3:23' where what might be an electric piano plays a frilly line that sounds like an infomercial intro. Much of it comes across as a stripped down mid 90's soft rock sound - something you'd hear from the likes of Deep Blue Something.

I think with the Mountain Goats, you're looking more at the content, delivery and voice to create the power in the songs (an artist that springs to mind as a comparison would be someone like David Gray). Lyrically, there is a naive, forced quality haunting this record. An example would be 'Matthew 25:21' which details the death of a (I think) friend to cancer. I have no doubt that if this is based on experience, then it was a painful and harrowing event. However, the annoying singing talking method of delivery highlights the clunkiness of lines like 'Happy to hear you speak / The last of something bright burning / Still burning / Beyond the cancer and the chemo/theraaapy'. It should be sad, but it sounds... embarrassing. There's also an awful track about animals going extinct that sounds like a child's story. You need to hear it to believe it.

There are a few gems though - 'Psalms 40:2' details a Gothic road trip from Hell and sees the band tightening up the drum skins to create a great feeling of tension before the throat mangling climax. The album opener and closer are strong - offsetting any awkward lyrics with an atmospheric music background. But the disturbingly saccharine nature of the majority of the record is just unendurable – I had no interest in looking up the associated Bible verses to form additional impressions of the songs. If you're looking to get a sense of this band, then I think this is not a good place to start.

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user ratings (155)
other reviews of this album
Rudy K. STAFF (4)
Another year, another Mountain Goats album, and another strong contender for folk album of the year....

Comments:Add a Comment 
July 29th 2013


harsh rating

lyrics are great btw

July 29th 2013


Album Rating: 2.0

Fair enough - I just felt they straddled simplicity and theatricality, and not well. If the music doesn't add any new shades to them, or the singer makes curious choices with regard to inflection that don't complement them, then they are unsuccessful.

July 29th 2013


Album Rating: 4.5

If you're looking to get a sense of this band, then I think this is not a good place to start.

you are absolutely right here, which is maybe a reason why you shouldn't have reviewed this without listening to some of the other post-lofi mountain goats albums.

i think this is their best album, so i'm a little prejudiced, but i definitely didn't always think that. it was only through a long time of listening to every mountain goats album that i got to that point.

obviously you can review an album however/whenever you want, and it's not necessary to hear someone's entire discography before forming an opinion on one album, but this was definitely an odd choice that you made. i'm curious as to why you picked this album over, say, the sunset tree, which is much more lauded among fans?

July 29th 2013


Album Rating: 2.0

Hehehe, I'm South African and it's not always easy to get any album off a legal download site (I use the Nokia music store). I checked the critic ratings and this seemed an ok place to start.

July 29th 2013


good review, pos

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