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by Dan Weiss

August 17, 2013

The Mountain Goats: The Boombox Years

by Dan Weiss  |  August 17, 2013

While John Darnielle's nasal bleat isn't for everyone, anyone could use some of his lyrical insights and dazzling vignettes in their life. Looking back at the first half of his career as The Mountain Goats proves a daunting exploration as the tunes mostly boil down to basic (but well-chosen and often beautiful) chord progressions on a lone acoustic guitar and the tape hiss of the trusty boombox he used for recording. Even for hardcore fans of newer classics like We Shall All Be Healed and Tallahassee, it can be a slog getting through his immense catalog from 1991 to 2002, a period that was retired with the recently reissued All Hail West Texas, a meditation on small-town life that wields tragic heroes (Jeff and Cyrus in "The Best Metal Band in Denton") and lovelorn bliss ("Jenny," which celebrates "no outstanding warrants for my arrest," among other non-obstacles). But before that, don't skip over the hilarious breakup vow "Cubs in Five" (when "the Chicago Cubs beat every team in the league" is when "I will love you again") or the bluesy "Insurance Fraud #2" ("There are lots of ways to make money in this world/ But I cannot recommend insurance fraud"). This playlist is full of fans-only stuff to appeal to the unconverted. After all, Darnielle's as good a preacher as this generation has had.

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