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The Mountain Goats - Bleed Out (Album Review)

Friday, 26 August 2022 Written by Craig Howieson

Photo: Spence Kelly

John Darnielle always has an angle. Now with three novels to his name, the Mountain Goats’ leader has proven himself every bit as capable as a writer of fiction as he is of songs—he has always had an eye for a good story.

Across a career now spanning 21 albums he has shown that few topics cannot be made into great rock songs. Whether examining couples at war (‘Tallahassee’), professional wrestling (‘Beat The Champ’), Dungeons and Dragons (‘In League With Dragons’), or formative subcultures (‘Goths’), his songs and records carry an arc that allows for a unique look at the world, often through the eyes and interests of someone you share nothing in common with.

‘Bleed Out’, an album written and recorded in early 2021 at the same frenetic pace with which it plays out, is no different. Heavily influenced by the old action movies that Darnielle revisited as a cushion from the collapse-inducing pandemic, it is stuffed with exaggerated tales of war and vengeance. Its songs that revel in high octane drama, laced with the taste of blood and the defiance to conquer the insurmountable. 

Time has done nothing but improve the Mountain Goats. Between them Darnielle, Peter Hughes (bass), Matt Douglas (keys/guitar/woodwind), and Jon Wurster (drums) have become one of the tightest units around, operating with the slickness of the session musicians whose studios they frequent. In fact they may have become too slick for the fans who prefer their Mountain Goats rougher around the edges. 

Luckily for them, sitting in and producing ‘Bleed Out’ is Bully’s Alicia Bognanno. Boganno’s work lends an urgency to the record that matches its subject matter. Darnielle’s words seem to hit harder and faster as his band, unshackled behind him, follow him to each cliffhanger ending. 

As the group put their foot on the gas on opener Training Montage, the scene is set for a rollicking rock ‘n’ roll record that finds its finest moments when it is at its most overblown—see the magnificent Wage War Get Rich Die Handsome as case in point, 

But in spite of all of it’s hedonistic bluster, ‘Bleed Out’ is anything but a dumb rock record. Darnielle is no fool, and tied in his escapist fantasies and bloodbath shootouts there lies, as always, a human streak. In high theatre he finds our common denominator and amid the chases and explosions are deeper questions: how do we react when we are wronged? What are the causes worth fighting for? And how do we live simply when our worst impulses are played out on screen? 

A record of many levels, to be enjoyed as a step out of reality as much as a deeper dive into twisted psyches, ‘Bleed Out’ makes a bold claim as one of the best Mountain Goats records, and it’s ready to fight for the crown.

The Mountain Goats Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed November 16 2022 - LONDON Roundhouse
Thu November 17 2022 - MANCHESTER Albert Hall
Fri November 18 2022 - DUBLIN Vicar Street

Compare & Buy The Mountain Goats Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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