الخميس، 25 مارس، 2010

Read some of this, it'll put color in your cheeks

To many, mountain goats generally strike one with the majestic image of a woolly mammal fit for Norse mythology. Some would say you'd be hitting the acid a little too hard if your mind wandered instead towards the biographical tale of a Denton, Texas-based death metal band formed by a couple of guys named Syrus and Jeff. Sure, they praised Satan during practice twice a week, and maybe they were even trying too hard to look tough with the consideration of a name like The Killers. (As if that'd ever stick, right?) What truly mattered, however, was their sheer confidence in that they were headed for stage lights, leer jets, fortune and fame, no matter what anyone around them said in condescendence.

So what the fuck does any of that have to do with mountain goats?

It could be because of the literary genius that John Darnielle displays in his often one-man band, The Mountain Goats. In fact, that's exactly why you'd think back to such an anecdote about two guys playing Cookie Monster metal together. From 1991 to 2002, Darnielle released a damn near career's worth of rich and engaging acoustic ballads that were all recorded on cassette tapes. This man doesn't need studio trickery to steal your breath away like most songwriters do. Guitar? Check. Nasally vocals? Check. Panasonic boombox? Check. Thought-provoking lyrics that could very well fit into any biographical novel you pull off a bookshelf? Oh yeah, check. That was clearly all he needed for over a decade before finally giving in to bigger budgets, condenser mics and mixer boards. However, the fact that his lo-fi works still hold their own quite well in this day and age says something beyond words. After sitting down with one of his albums and a hot cup of tea, you'd be convinced that this guy could write a masterpiece about anything. If I had to pull a Pitchfork and give it the clever analogy, I'd argue that Darnielle is the reincarnation of Frank Zappa through lyrical revelations. There's plenty more of that shit over yonder if you're interested in that sort of thing.

Would you believe me if I said that ol' Johnny was still a humble, down-to-earth guy despite all the (very deserving) praise I and many others have churned out? Most likely. What if his hobbies included photography and blogging? Pretty normal these days, but wait a minute here—did he just make a reference to The Dillinger Escape Plan's monolithic mathcore record, Calculating Infinity? Is this the same John fuckin' Darnielle of The Mountain fuckin' Goats that's blogging about a goregrind band named Cattle Decapitation?

Hi-diddle-dee-dee-goddamn. It's hard to imagine that the mastermind behind such monumental indie folk albums like All Hail West Texas and The Sunset Tree would be into corpse paint, slam dancing and doom-sludge-dronecore. Who are we to judge, though? Our own guilty pleasures aren't that much better. You love singing to Miley Cyrus in the shower and I enjoy a good chick flick with a gallon of Ben & Jerry's. It just so happens that Darnielle over there can't get enough of that studded black leather. It definitely sheds some light on why he'd dedicate a song to the best ever death metal band out of Denton. Hail Satan!

Ex Number Five: The Team Players Association

I was first exposed to Ex Number Five via the clunky yet harmless Razor Freestyle Scooter video game. Yeah, remember those Razor scooters? Every kid on the block had one back then. Despite not having anything in common whatsoever, the band gained a decent amount of public appeal from that game, and for good cause. They meant business when it came to their craft and musicianship, even down to perfecting the post-hardcore act; twin guitars lash out monstrous, melodic riffs that interchange, harmonize and play off of each other in a way that pulses as the group's lead auxiliary. Alf Bartone fronts a unique and powerful voice that gives their songs an extra injection of steroids, yet he manages to keep away from standard screamo territory. Even drummer Luke Bodenstein proved to be a vital asset with his diverse patterns and intricate fills, dropping serious onslaughts that drive each song home. The band has had a couple different bassists, but Chris Newman certainly threw in a meaty low-end on their later recordings.

Preceded by a number of demos, The Team Players Association can be considered Ex Number Five's true output of studio material. My only gripe with an otherwise solid rock album is it only includes nine tracks. "(Not) Go" was the best of the two songs featured on Razor Freestyle Scooter, yet is sorely missed on the record and would have been an excellent bookend for the band's short-lived run. They split paths sometime in 2002, although Bartone subsequently lent his vocals to a decent hardcore band called The Fire Still Burns for four years. Of course, they wound up disbanding as well. The rest of Ex Number Five branched out into several other projects, but none have come close to the creative success they had before.