The Mountain Goats – All Hail West Texas
Merge, 2014 (Reissue)
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2015
My all-time Top Ten records could easily be comprised entirely of Mountain Goats albums. This is no joke. No songwriter speaks to my soul quite like John Darnielle, and were he to forge some sort of tent-revival spiritual following cult-like group, I would follow him into the dark night. Putting nothing but Mountain Goats records in my Top Ten is easy, but deciding the order is hard. I know the top three would be Tallahassee, The Sunset Tree, and All Hail West Texas, but the order is variable. Depends on the mood. Tonight, it’s All Hail West Texas, and it’s a no doubter. It’s simultaneously the last of JD’s boombox recordings and also the first album that feels like an actual Album rather than a collection of songs. It’s a great leap forward and the songwriting here is at another level, which is astounding considering the level Darnielle was already writing at.
The night I asked Jenny out on our first date, I played a solo show at the Eighth Street Taproom in Lawrence. My band the Kite Tails were scheduled to open but my bandmates couldn’t make the gig and, for some insane reason, I decided to soldier on. I used it as an opportunity to cover some of my favorite songs. I’d just spent a year going through a rough breakup, and finally cut it off for good with my ex about a month before. I was still in an ugly place, and I put a lot of sad breakup songs on that setlist. “Source Decay” was right there in the middle, and despite practicing it fifty times in the lead-up to the show, I forgot one of the verses late in the song. Fortunately, someone in the crowd (I think it was this guy Cal, who. Ironically, I ended up playing in another band with a year or so down the line) knew the song and sang out the start of the verse and I finished with as much aplomb as I could. I was nervous, but I got lost in that song. I still get lost in that song every time I hear it. That night I was exorcising demons I’d been living with for too long, and I feel like yelling those lyrics into a microphone to 20 people in a basement in a college town finally got me to move along. I drank my free beer, saw Jenny for the first time in months, and was riding high enough on the emotional buoy of the show to break character and for once in my life act with confidence.
That was almost 7 years ago, we’ve been together ever since, and the Mountain Goats is one of our collective favorite bands. This is what we listen to when we listen to music. This is what I listen to when I listen to music, and I can’t talk about the Mountain Goats without getting evangelical and emotional. I can only surmise that this is what people who love the Bible feel like. They wanna share the good news, they want you to feel as amazing as they feel when they interface with something deeply spiritual. For me, listening to a Mountain Goats record is as close as I get to going to church. Especially this one, which was finally reissued on vinyl last year, thank god.
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