Listening through the Mountain Goats! PRE-4AD VERSION 1991-2002


Feb 19 2011, 19:41

so i understand that i am a day late with this, Nigel Ewan, and for that, i apologize! however, i listened through all of JD's 1991 work, Taboo VI: The Homecoming, and his contribution to some random compilation.

Favorite song: I'm going to go on a limb here, and say that Wild Palm City is my favorite of 1991. There is just... something about how you can tell that this has to be the first song he recorded; like he just picked up the guitar and started strumming it. I mean, the chord progressions don't always match up, and there are errors, etc. It's quality. I know "Going to Alaska" would probably be the definitive answer here... but... I like Wild Palm City lots.
Favorite lyric: Hmm... I think I'm going to go with "I'm going to move all my vital organs to someplace outside my body/The wiring is something you would not believe. from Ice Cream, Cobra Man. Just the imagery is quite cool; imaginative. JD is a solid songwriter, in my opinion, for putting together simple phrases that seemingly have nothing to do with each other, and connecting them. Love it.

Although the Hank Williams cover got on my nerves after about thirty seconds of the Spanish translation overtop it, I will admit.

See you next Friday with 1992! Get pumped.


Okay. 1992 contains three albums, The Hound Chronicles, Songs for Petronius, and Transmissions for Horace. I personally think that John must've taken steroids somewhere in between these two years, as the sheer volume and quality of songs is incredibly superior to 1991, it is not even funny. Aha! Ha! Aha!

Favorite Album: hmm. Probably The Hound Chronicles. It also contains my favorite song, the one with the title of the Hebrew word for "quiet". That casio jam kicks butt. Like, totally.

Favorite Lyric: I hate to do this, but really the lyric from No, I Can't about the filing cabinet. I lol'd upon hearing it for the first time. Here it is: thanks for the filing cabinet/i don't know what i did without it!. So goofy, but yet important to the song. So awesome. Also, the lyrics to the early Alpha songs are very good; and extremely reminiscent to me of the more familiar Tallahassee songs.

Other Things And Stuff: Well. Going to Wisconsin is an incredible song, and I also throughly enjoy Alpha Double Negative: Going to Catalina. Yay!

See you next my Friday with 1993. :)


So. Another week has gone by, and ergo another entry! This one is for 93, another turbo productive year for dear John (not the movie). So! Let's get going. The albums were:

(several tracks from comps... and...!)
Chile De Arbol
Hot Garden Stomp

Favorite Song/Favorite Lyric: This one for me is tough, because I really like Hot Garden Stomp as a whole, honestly. However, Feed This End is absolutely amazing. The intro, the lyrics (well... duh!), and the chord progression where he says my favorite lyric, "you taught me something about power/in its purest form" is nearly perfect. My goodness. I first heard this song as I was sitting in my geometry class, waiting for it to start, and I listened to it passively; then immediately stood up, walked out, and listened to it three times on repeat before re-entering the room. (Then sent a text to Nigel. I was overwhelmed.)

Honorable Mentions/Stuff: I was almost shocked at the cursing in Billy the Kid's Dream of the Magic Shoes. It really took me by complete surprise, actually. Also, I personally love JD when he sounds absolutely bitter; so Fresh Berries for You is another highlight.

The lyric "there are certain gardening skills/that you don't have yet", out-of-context is extremely goofy. However, in Sun Song it sounds amazing. I am personally a huge fan of HGS. I fully approve. Going to Japan is similarly AMAZING.

Cannot wait for 1994! See you soon.


This week, we're concerned with:

Beautiful Rat Sunset
Yam, King of the Crops
Taking the Dative
Zopilote Machine
amongst other comp tracks.

Favorite Song: Torn between Alpha Sun Hat and Going to Maryland. These two songs feature strong lyrics, as always, and catchy guitar parts. I mean, I know Going to Georgia is the definitive answer here, and don't get me wrong... the song rules. Similarly, Orange Ball of Peace and Going to Bristol are honorable mentions. The pre-chorus/chorus part to Going to Bristol features a great, great, awesomely great chord progression.

Favorite Lyric: I hate saying this, since it is not one specific lyric, but the entirety of Alpha Sun Hat. The cute mention/foreshadowing of Tallahassee, the "1 2 3 4!" part about it not being a rock song... all of it. The sample in Chino Love Song 1979 deserves mention here too, as it ties together the lyrics of the song. ...he also mentions Riverside Dr... which is the name of a road very close to my house here in the suburb of Columbus called Upper Arlington. I definitely lol'd and re-listened to it about 3 times making sure I heard it correctly.

There really are too many great options here. This is getting progressively more difficult as time goes. ...Zopilote Machine is also becoming one of my favorite pre-4ad albums. Up and down, it is an easy, solid, enjoyable listen. ...mind, I know the songs on that specific album don't push two and a half minutes, but still, it's a quick, light, awesome lesson as an entirety.

Other mentionables: The chord progressions of Going to Tennessee and Yam, the King of Crops are AWESOME.

1995 NEXT!


My goodness, what another solid year. This time, we get to look at:

Nine Black Poppies
Songs for Peter Hughes
several singles, comp selections, etc

Okay. Disclaimer: 1995 contains some of my already favorite songs, so this was an easy year to listen through, as this is the beginning of the time when the majority of the material is not hitting my ears for the first time. That said, let's continue!

Favorite song(s): Let's not kid ourselves here. The entirety of "Songs for Peter Hughes" takes the cake, for me. Every song on there is GOLD. Absolute GOLD. Rachel sounds great here, and I would argue her basslines here mirror PPH's in the future the most; they are great little counter-melodies, and her voice matches JD's so wonderfully. Short Song for the 10 Freeway, the re-working of No, I Can't, the beautiful Song for Dana Plato and OF COURSE, The Sign.

Similarly, and I include Favorite Lyrics in this discussion, Cubs In Five, although most likely the definitive choice here, sounds fresh every single time I play it. Raja Vocative, a track Nigel and I covered a year ago, is absolutely incredible; some of my favorite lyrics of JD's. Very simple, but paint a great picture.

You may be thinking, "but Ian... where is Sweden in all of this?!". And you would be correct. I have purposely postponed my praise for Sweden... until, well... now. <_<

Although it was ultimately Get Lonely that would get me hooked on tMG, Sweden was the first pre-4AD album, (alongside FFG, if we must be honest) that REALLY hooked me to the boombox approach. ...believe me, it took a hot minute before I really enjoyed the sonics, but the songwriting of Sweden is too solid to ignore.

The Recognition Scene comes into my mind every single time I see/hear any derivative of the word "Sweden". The Steely Dan cover FM makes me smile purely because I KNOW there have to be people in existence that hear that song and DO NOT KNOW it is a SD cover. Which amuses me greatly.

There are several on Sweden I do not like as much as the rest, I fully admit. I get restless about halfway through it; but mostly because I know what treasures lay at the end of the album.

The VERY BEST SONG of 1995, however, is Flashing Lights. It not only predicts the softer approach JD has embraced as of late, but also features a Drop C tuning. Which is pretty metal. ...and if anyone disagrees with me about this, I will personally slap you in the face. >_> Not really. However, I LOVE THIS SONG.

Next time... 1996? The year Al Gore invented the internet?!


So, again, I am ashamed of my insane tardiness with this, however, that does not mean I ignored our beloved tMG. :)

1996 contains two great things in JD world: Nothing for Juice and Jack & Faye.

Now, I know my good friend Nigel has his personal preferences in terms of albums, and that our favorites do not exactly line up. Case and point, Nothing for Juice. That aside, I think that really shows the diversity and excitement contained within why I think tMG are so special in the musical canon of bands I enjoy. The diversity contained within tMG catalogue is astounding.


Favorite Lyric: Definitely the "I KNOW WE'RE DONE FOR" from Going to Bogotá. Maybe a cliché pick, however, the delivery and build-up is wonderful. The entirety of Alpha Double Negative: Going to Catalina, "I see your veins throbbing in your neck/I know what you're saying/I know what you're saying it for/I'm not listening/I'm not listening anymore".

SO GREAT. I am extremely partial to those pseudo-relationship songs, and so that one is great. This version builds on the previous one on Songs for Petronius only slightly; the addition of Rachel is wonderful.

Which brings me to another point: although I LOVE Rachel on Songs for Peter Hughes, I might love her on Nothing for Juice even more. Her basslines are subtle and usually follow JD directly; foreshadowing the aforementioned PPH.

Other favorite things: The chord progression and combination of harmonies/delivery/way JD sings the words of Raid on Entebbe is amazing. Pretty sure that after a few more listens, this song will join my loved tracks. This song embodies everything that is so GOOD about the pre-4AD Mountain Goats. Almost a shame it's tucked away on this little EP, but I am super glad that Nigel and I are doing this, because otherwise I might never have searched out to find songs like this.

Rachel Ware, I want to collaborate with you. Come to Columbus. Make my songs as awesome as what you do with JD. Please. I have a nasally voice too! Make it sound beautiful!

1997, 1998, 1999

Since it seems as though JD took a break/was preparing very hard for the amazing 2000 effort, The Coroner's Gambit, Nigel and I decided to combine these three years, as they cover Full Force Galesburg and New Asian Cinema plus several comps.

To start, I feel it is necessary to say that FFG and NAC hold interesting points for me; FFG was the first tMG album I remember listening to in full. NAC is the LAST tMG album I finally got to listening to; which I find very interesting, as NAC is growing to become one of my favorites. Lalitree's banjo playing, the subtle organ on Cao Dai Blowout, JD harmonies on only one line of Korean Bird Paintings and the fantastically beautiful harmonica overtones on Treetop Song.

Favorite Song and lyric: Tough one. FFG is one of my favorites. Alongside the aforementioned Treetop Song, New Britain fascinates me because when I heard it, I was not expecting the DADGAD tuning, as I had only previously heard standard (EADGBE) tuning from JD before that. I absolutely love the chord progression to it. So great. "This morning I know/Who you are". SO GREAT.

Ontario and especially Down Here are also personal favorites; the overdubbed electric guitar fits it perfectly. The chord progression and lyrical flow of Chinese House Flowers is fantastic. "The windows look like frosted glass if you see them from the street... And i, i pressed up against you again/I could hear your heartbeat steady, and hard, and pure/I used to love you so much that i was sure it would kill me/And i want you the way you were". The way JD says "the GLEAM IN YOUR EYE". Yes.

Similarly, the live version of one of my new favorites, Raid on Entebbe, from the YoYo a GoGo live comp is great.

Few points of interest here, however. I know that Minnesota and Golden Boy are favorites to many. I know this. However, both songs do not strike me as being incredibly great standout tracks. They are solid songs, but are both some of my least favorite tMG songs. Maybe it's because I know a lot of people like them, I'm not sure. The last verse of Golden Boy is quite good; repeating that line about how there are no supermarkets in hell, but it just doesn't click with me the way some of the others from these years do. Minnesota is a solid song, for sure, but I find myself getting bored with the chord progression, I think, because it is the same progression to many other songs I know. Praise songs, specifically. The lyrics, of course, are absolutely great. I just... get bored with it. Never thought I'd say that.

Getting excited for some of my favorites coming up! So glad that this project happened, or else I would never have heard some of these songs. So excited to move forward!!!


Big year here. Both Isopanisad Radio Hour and The Coroner's Gambit this year.

Favorite Songs/Lyric: This year, I think both the album and the EP are amazing. I feel like IRH has to be the songs recorded for tCG that did not fit on the album; as all the songs have roughly the same recording timbre and feel. Cobscook Bay, with its bells and subtle electric guitar is an amazing track. Everything about it is a winner. Baboon is also wonderful; the lyrics are biting, and the drums sound fantastic alongside the humming instrument; which sounds like a harmonium or even a casio. I am under the assumption JD is playing drums here; as the riding tom 16th notes push the anger through it, and it is fantastic. I decided to put most of Baboon here, lyric-wise, as it is of high quality. Especially the spirit/flesh line.

...and the spirit wasn't really willing anymore, but the flesh was very very strong.
and i've got very little money left, and i've got no sense,
but I'll have none of your god damned impudence...

daisies on the hillside like cancer on the skin.
pretty little yellow eyes that flutter in the wind,
I'd be grateful my children aren't here here to see this,
if you'd ever seen fit to give me children.

day breaking... spring cleaning!

Those are fantastic. The additional guitar parts on Horseradish Road make the song, alongside the multiple references JD makes to other artists, including LeAnn Rimes, (a song he hates...<_<). ...and what would tCG be without Family Happiness, the first pre-4AD song that really, really, REALLY stuck with me. The Tolstoy, the guess I'm supposed to figure these things out, I guess it's supposed to be self-evident, the engine shuddering like a "dying man", etc. Trick Mirror and Elijah's falsetto/breaking vocals are killer. Insurance Fraud #2 and its open tuning leave me (sometimes) wishing JD would visit his DADGAD tuning more often.

Like God was going to catch you by the ponytail is the line I hear almost every time I see someone with a ponytail walking directly in front of me, and the Daytrotter version of There Will Be No Divorce still rocks my world.

What I like most about tCG is it is a very important record in tMG oeuvre. The violin, backing acoustic guitar/electric and drum/bell/percussion additions make the best case for JD becoming a solid studio arranger come 4AD years. ...I find myself liking tCG with each new listen. It sounds fresh to me in places where some others have started to not; like the grating Hot Garden Stomp or the album closest to setting the stage for tCG, Nothing for Juice, or the album that still has yet to really sink in for me, Zopilote Machine.

IRH contains some hidden gems to me, as I feel songs like Pseudothyrum Song and Abide With Me are hardly recognized. The latter containing very Christian overtones; perhaps sardonically, not sure. Perhaps since it was only a vinyl release, some people do not have mp3 copies of it, however, with its proximity to the very popular tCG and All Hail West Texas in terms of release date, I am surprised I do not hear more talk of it, as it is bookended by two very strong albums.


Hello there, campers. Here's my week-late/on-time coverage of 2001/2002, respectively. Yay!


On Juhu Beach
All Hail West Texas
Devil in the Shortwave
Martial Arts Weekend

On OJB, I think we can all agree that the tape hiss is incredibly present, however, that only adds to the songs in wonderful form here. Initially, I was rather turned off by it, and could only really listen to Burned My Tongue. Everything about Burned My Tongue is still amazing to me, I must say. Some of my favorite lyrics ever, and the delivery is outstanding. The line "do i have to hit you over the head with it?" is great, from the last track, World Cylinder. Hotel Road also rocks. This little EP is pretty nice and compact, and I enjoy it greatly, but I would take several over this one easily (see Nine Black Poppies, Beautiful Rat Sunset, ANDDDDD:

Devil in the Shortwave. The line about guys "building graduate student housing" is one of my favorite to sing-along to in the song Crows. I now understand why Commandante is so highly requested at tMG shows, as this song KICKS it. So great. Always smile at the "Chairman Mao coat/Che Guevara pin", and the line about "banjo on my knee". Great, great lyrics. DitS might be one of my favorite EPs. Perfect mix of lo-fi and 4ad-forward albums; it is great. They almost sound like songs recorded for AHWT, but (clearly) did not fit the theme nor the overall timbre. I really, really, really like DITS.

Now to the main course, All Hail West Texas. I admit, I have been relatively cold to this album in the past, merely because I perceived a lot of people really loved this one, and I never understood it because I never understood the seemingly complete solidarity in hatred towards Get Lonely, although that is a story we'll save for 2006! These songs, however, might be JD's most solid collection at this point in his recorded history. The entire album follows from song to song. That said, for me, the album loses momentum greatly with Riches And Wonders and Blues In Dallas. I will always listen to these songs, as I love the album now as a whole, however, I have grown tired of these two; not out of overlistening, but mostly due from the fact that I really do not like neither of them. Riches and Wonders and Blues in Dallas both strike me as a touch too overdrawn; the melodies don't stick with me, and I feel as if both of them are very cold. Perhaps I'm being too picky, or I am just jaded, but I am not big fans of those songs.

However, AHWT is better with them there, in the sequence. I think there are momentum dips with the aforementioned songs, but songs like Color in Your Cheeks, with its great and unique for JD (at this point) chord progression, Jenny and its breakdown after a very good "Goddamn!", Balance, "two tall glasses of sweet iced tea!", really shine out. I cannot even begin to describe Source Decay (he says Mobius strip! AHHHH) nor Absolute Lithops Effect ("night comes to Texas"!!! YEAH FORESHADOWING OF TALLAHASSEE. I understand I am doing the album disservice by not describing each individual song, however if I started to, I would never cease writing. My goodness.

What strikes me as to why AHWT is SO good, is the fact that JD finally started deviating from his beloved reliance on 1-4-5 (sometimes 2, sometimes 6) chord progressions, and moved towards more expansive chord progressions. Source Decay, Fault Lines, Pink And Blue, Balance, the wonderful The Mess Inside, and Absolute Lithops Effect all have extremely unique chord progressions for JD at this point, and foreshadow greatly the melodic turns and curveballs he throws on his 4ad/Merge albums.

(I will admit, also, that while I think The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton and Fall Of The Star High School Running Back are some of the best storytelling songs JD has done, and are deservedly loved universally, I would take several of the songs on the rest of the album almost instantaneously over these two if I had to.)

Now, we move on to the first true studio endeavor with higher fidelity common amongst the 4ad albums, Martial Arts Weekend, by the Extra Glenns, is perhaps the tMG-related album I have listened to the least of all of them. However, Franklin Bruno might be one of the best people possible in the entire world to collaborate with JD. His arrangements make JD really, really shine. See the subtle palm-muting and auxiliary percussion of Ultra Violet, the piano/electric guitar somewhere from the early 1960's on Twelve Hands High, the dueling guitars and reverbed JD of Going to Morocco, the AHWT-esque chord progression and harmonies of Malevolent Seascape Y, and the humorous bass/guitar + lyrics combo of All Rooms Cable A/C Free Coffee.

In total, Franklin Bruno is the man. The absolute man. His arrangements are always tasteful. Going to have to go listen to Nothing Painted Blue now...


  • disbenefits

    i did not know FM is a steely dan cover

    Giu 9 2011, 2:22
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