IS IT time that John Darnielle’s purveyors of the great Americana dream, The Mountain Goats, received an award for industry?
In the accursed year of our Lord, 2020, when the virus came and we all suddenly became rather better acquainted with the insides of our houses and our heads than most of us could ever have wished for, the music scene, like most of life, was paralysed, frozen somewhere in March, a year that was never to be. Tours were rent asunder, studio time was conducted over ISDN, shit fell apart.
The Mountain Goats? Well, they released three albums in all; yep, three, including the briefly rare-as-hen’s-teeth cassette Songs for Pierre Chuvin (it’s since had CD and vinyl releases), a digital live album and the warm roots grace of Getting Into Knives.
Actually, it was only a year back when that John was in conversation with NPR, during which chat he revealed the band had been recording new material at “two famed studios in the Deep South.”
With October came Getting Into Knives, laid down at Sam Phillips Recording, Memphis, in that legendary space that’s hosted everyone from Elvis Presley to The Cramps. Well, crackled the message boards; that’s one studio’s worth of recordings accounted for. Where were these other tracks?
The answer is a whole, discrete other set of songs were committed to tape at FAME Studios, Muscle Shoals, Alabama – whose hallowed boards and baffles have resounded to the sounds of Aretha, Wilson Pickett, Gregg Allman and so many others.
it’s reckoned by those in the know to be a quieter, smokier confection than Getting Into Knives; and they’e just dropped a second single from it, partly revisiting that interdisciplinary comment from 2017’s full-album subcultural overview, Goths; it’s called “The Slow Parts on Death Metal Albums” and you can hear it here.
It is warm too, with percussion and organ, John reaching for his falsetto in a down-at-heel lyric of dislocation: “In a new universe / Trying to find the mask that fits me,” he sings.
The song features backing vocals from Muscle Shoals legends in their lifetimes, Susan Marshall and Reba Russell, who’e work with everyone from the Reverend Al Green to Huey Lewis; from Lynyrd Skynyrd to U2.
Mountain Goats’ bassist Peter Hughes reveals: “John concedes that ‘The Slow Parts On Death Metal Albums’ is an autobiographical one.
“While the lines, ‘In a new universe / trying to find the mask that fits me’ would take on a newly literal connotation … the song is about going to metal shows at Fender’s Ballroom in Long Beach, California, in the late ’80s, and more broadly, about seeking a sense of identity and community in strange and occasionally forbidding places.”
“The Slow Parts On Death Metal Albums” follows the warm country rock of “Mobile” as a single drop from the new album.
Hey, if you’re Stateside, the band has also announced a summer tour, the dates being as follows:
Friday, August 6th, Asheville, NC, The Orange Peel;
Saturday, August 7th, Atlanta, GA, Variety Playhouse;
Sunday, August 8th, Birmingham, AL, Saturn;
Tuesday and Wednesday, August 10th and 11th, Austin, TX, Mohawk;
Thursday, August 12th, Houston, TX, White Oak Music Hall;
Friday, August 13th, San Antonio, TX, Paper Tiger;
Sunday and Monday, August 15th and 16th, Santa Fe, NM, Meow Wolf;
Thursday, August 19th, Englewood, CO, Gothic Theatre;
Saturday, August 21st, Fort Collins, CO, Washington’s;
Monday, August 23rd, Milwaukee, WI, The Pabst Theater;
Tuesday and Wednesday, August 24th and 25th, Evanston, IL, SPACE, and
Thursday, August 26th, Detroit, MI, Royal Oak Music Theatre.
A few weeks later, John will also taking to the road for a clutch of solo shows, the dates for which are as follows:
Thursday, September 16th, Dallas, TX, Kessler Theater;
Friday, September 17th, Oklahoma City, OK, Tower Theatre;
Friday, September 24th, Holyoke, MA, Gateway City Arts Center;
Saturday, September 25th, Woodstock, NY, Levon Helm Studios, and
Sunday, September 26th, Bethlehem, PA, Musikfest Cafe at the ArtsQuest.
For tickets to any of these shows, click through here.
The Mountain Goats’ Dark In Here will be released digitally, on CD, on trad black and ‘high noon somewhere blue’ vinyl on June 25th; you can pre-order it here, or here if you want that coloured vinyl edition and you’re in the UK.