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The Mountain Goats

All Hail West Texas (Merge)

Reviewed by Luke Winkie, Fri., Aug. 16, 2013

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The Mountain Goats

All Hail West Texas (Merge)

Mythos bathes North Carolina songwriter John Darnielle. It's not him. He's always maintained his everyman persona. Mountain Goats loyalists, on the other hand, are forever tracking their favorite band in periods and movements. 2002's All Hail West Texas remains particularly cherished in the catalog, a last relic of the trio frontman's original slash-and-burn methodology. A decade ago, he'd come up with a song, hit record on a lonely boom box, and lay it to tape right on the living room floor. No studio, no mastering, mainlined directly to the audience. All Hail West Texas is like listening to a pound of flesh. Home to several Mountain Goats anthems, it harbors the ballad of two small-town metalheads against popular authority ("The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton"), a doomed marriage ("The Mess Inside"), and a drunken, depressed gambler ("Fault Lines"). There's also an infinite love story in about 40 words: "Jenny." Darnielle writes powerfully declarative lyrics that paint stories and characters you can't outrun. Whether he'll ever write anything as raw as All Hail West Texas again, now buttressed with seven bonus tracks, remains to be seen.

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