Mountain Goats Heretic Pride

Mountain Goats Heretic Pride
When we last left our hero John, he was exorcising personal demons of badly fractured relationships with stepfathers and exes, bravely waving bright torches at the monster-filled darkness. With Heretic Pride, our hero restages the story-loving, freewheeling style of his early four-track days tempered with a growing will to flesh out the skeleton of songs. The darkness is still monster filled but now they lurk as much within metaphor ("How to Embrace a Swamp Creature”) as outside ("Michael Myers Resplendent”). This is definitely the most musically expansive Mountain Goats. Returning collaborators Peter Hughes and Franklin Bruno broaden their instrumental comfort zone, and they’re joined by Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster, cellist Erik Friedlander and a clutch of female voices, including old friends Rachel and Sarah, absent from MG duties since around 1996. The results veer from prototypical Darnielle "place” songs ("San Bernardino”) to oddly muscular "place” songs ("Lovecraft in Brooklyn”) to oddly unplaceable songs ("Autoclave,” "Marduk T-Shirt Men’s Room Incident”). The tendency to stack new work against back catalogue is patently short-sighted but here it’s made futile. The musical "after” picture looks a little like the grainier "before” one but presents a figure so sharp you’ll say, "Is that really our hero, John?” (4AD)