Still catching up after getting back from Florida. Mind if I squeeze in a belated CD Monday?
A few things about the Mountain Goats’ All Hail West Texas:
- It’s brilliant. Plain and simple. It’s also brilliant, plain, and simple.
- My sister is just four years older than I am, but she’s often a decade or more ahead of me in recognizing the brilliance in albums like this one. She’s the one who got me this copy, and so I sing this song for her.
- In the time since I last listened to this album all the way through, I learned what an incredible extra-musical writer John Darnielle is. Mostly from following him on Tumblr, though I heard that Wolf in White Van was nominated for the National Book Award for Fiction, and I’m dying to read it. Having seen his writing, ya know, in writing makes it easier to hear how elegant and prosaic his lyrics are, and I’m finding myself grouping lines into sentences and trying decide how to punctuate them. Like “That’s why Jeff, in the letters he’d write to his friend, helped develop a plan to get even.” Or how about the start of “Jenny,” which is a such joy to play with, like syntactic Play-Doh. Here’s one possibility: “You roared into the driveway of our Southwestern ranch-style house on a new Kawasaki — all yellow and black, fresh out of the showroom. Our house faced west so the big orange sun, positioned at your back, lit up your magnificent silhouette.” (If you end up reading this, John, I’d love to know how you’d do it.)
- Speaking of “Jenny,” the chords that follow “The pirate’s life for me” coming out of (or into, depending on how you look at it) the second chorus are proof that musical euphoria doesn’t need lights or amps or Pro Tools. It’s the result of thoughtful musical architecture, and that euphoria can make any moment — turning left on your way to work, say — memorable.
- Speaking of early morning driving, there’s nothing quite like singing along with the end of “The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton” while steaming toward daycare with your one-year-old right behind you in the car seat. Listen below and you’ll see what I’m talking about. (Mom, maybe you shouldn’t listen. Or maybe you should listen but keep in mind what “Hail Satan” could mean to two metal kids who are defiantly holding out hope for stardom.)