The Mountain Goats - Dark in Here Music Album Reviews

The Mountain Goats - Dark in Here Music Album Reviews
A gloomier companion to 2020’s Getting Into Knives, John Darnielle’s latest is patient, tense, and full of empathy.

Near the end of his 2014 novel Wolf in White Van, John Darnielle wrote, “There are only two stories: either you go forward or you die.” Three decades into his career, it’s easy to see which one he prefers. Darnielle and the Mountain Goats, his one-time solo project which has now solidified into a quartet, have remained in constant motion. After a five-month tour at the end of 2019, the group settled at Sam Phillips Recording in Memphis to make 2020’s Getting Into Knives, with a plan of heading south to Muscle Shoals, Alabama shortly afterwards to record the immediate follow-up. After spending a week at FAME Studios, they emerged with Dark in Here, their third studio album in 15 months, sixth in as many years, and 20th overall. Where Getting Into Knives was something of a mixed bag and Songs for Pierre Chuvin, recorded around the same time, was Darnielle’s homemade lockdown opus, Dark in Here is a beacon of light, creeping out of Earth’s darkest trenches.

Like the acoustic dispatches on Songs for Pierre Chuvin, Dark in Here harkens back to Darnielle’s early work about misfortune wreaked on nobodies. He is at his strongest when he balances the soulful vamp of the session players—including Spooner Oldham, whose Wurlitzer was a vital ingredient on Aretha Franklin’s Lady Soul and I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You—with stories of forgotten people wedged in tight, messy crevices of rubble, combating the plagues of loneliness that live on well beyond the limits of calamity, urging even the unluckiest of us to find the beauty hiding in plain sight.

The only conceptual throughline on Dark in Here is the lingering desolation stalking each character, a common theme in the Mountain Goats’ discography. And whether he finds it lurking on the brink or actively upheaving his characters’ paths, Darnielle sounds right in his comfort zone, leaning on velvety piano and Jon Wurster’s tight rhythm to build the tension, allowing the record to feel progressively more on-edge as each track bleeds into the next. On opener “Parisian Enclave,” a throng of men lurk through the sewer system beneath a European city and break out onto the streets, and the darkness hiding on the record takes shape in familiar scenes: a bible verse catalyzing self-sabotage, a quiet train car full of unreadable strangers, or a shoreline blackened by empty midnight.

Dark in Here finds a balance between the catastrophes we face and the catastrophes we create. In the thrashing cautionary tale of “The Destruction of the Kola Superdeep Borehole Tower,” a squadron of drillers dig their way into Hell and forget about their earthly possessions, embracing the beauty sprouting from the ashes. Darnielle has always understood how to make a romantic mess of these kinds of stories, focussing on people who have no say in their own afflictions. On “When a Powerful Animal Comes,” with his deadpan tenor atop Peter Hughes’ oil-slick bass lines, Darnielle gestures toward a grander sense of fallibility—“We’ve made mistakes/Everyone spots their own mess when the dawn breaks”—and extends a hand to his audience, ushering us into the light, assuring it will not burn us alive.

For a record so subtly violent and wretched with anxiety, with Darnielle’s overriding mood pitched between moshpit and battlefield, the music is just as approachable as the lighter fare on Getting Into Knives. The characters in these songs often feel like matured recasts of the ones we’ve crossed paths with throughout Darnielle’s past work. Dark in Here welcomes into the fold a new battalion of teenage metalheads, an embattled music critic, and one metropolitan prophet posing as Jonah. All of these characters are teetering on the edge of death and purgatory, drifting onward toward their “preordained place.”

Although Dark in Here was recorded in the same stretch of inspiration as Knives, and was meant to serve as its muted and gloomy companion, it outshines its predecessor. Instead of circling the drain in despair, these complex characters are steadfast in their resolve. “Swim right through the night/Break the surface and rise like a geyser/When my time is right,” Darnielle sings near the end of closer “Let Me Bathe in Demonic Light,” a patient, sympathetic nod towards the people awaiting the resolutions they deserve. Darnielle has long interrogated the complicated, often tragic journeys of his flawed heroes, cultivating a songbook of loud, exhausted reasons to keep on moving. On Dark in Here, he sings proudly for the ones who dare to stick around.
Share on Google Plus

About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
The Mountain Goats - Dark in Here Music Album Reviews The Mountain Goats - Dark in Here Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on July 07, 2021 Rating: 5


Post a Comment