Over the course of the past twenty three years, San Francisco folk rock band Mountain Goats have been extremely prolific when it comes to releasing albums, Goths, their latest opus is the bands sixteenth album and follows 2015 brilliant Beat The Champ and in fact, could be even more of a triumph than that album as the band seem to get better and better as they go on.
Goths, as the title suggests, is a tribute to goth music and its subsequent subculture but done in The Mountain Goats own charming way. The band are almost like a transatlantic version of Belle & Sebastian with their quaint and qui my songs about all manners of things and life in general and the songs on Goths have that in common.
The album opens with the barnstorming Rain In Soho, a catchy number that could easily have come out of the 1980s goth scene (a trait that flows through the album) but done with a Mountain Goats vibe, imagine if you can, a melding of Bauhaus and Mountain Goats and you are there.
The brilliantly titled (something the band have always been experts at) Andrew Eldridge Is Moving Back To Leeds follows and is a jaunty tale about the Sisters Of Mercy leader that is both humorous and enjoyable. The Grey King And And The Silver Flame Attunement is a more downbeat track, in spirit with the goth spirit running through the album strongest here but the track also has a jazzy feel to it while We Do It Different On The West Coast is the antithesis of this with the upbeat nature of the songs music but the lyrics tell a different more somber tale and this works very well.
Unicorn Intolerance (see what I mean about the song titles!) is another more upbeat and totally infectious song with quirky and clever lyrics that render the song a joy to listen to. Stench Of The Unburied ( a song title that is more suited to a death metal band than a folk rock or even a goth one!) is a gentle song about listening to Siouxsie & The Banshees and has a sublime, lo-if feel about it while Wear Black is simply a beautiful song with some sublime harmonies that has a gothic spirit at heart but it is coated in a velvet sheen that resonates throughout the songs duration.
Another jazzy number comes in the form of Paid In Cocaine as is the track that comes up next, the laid back vibe of Rage Of Travers and the energy gets elevated by the next song, Shelved and this sets off the motion for the culmination of the album that ends with the shimmering For The Portugese Goth Metal Bands, a charming and alluring song that references among other things, Swiss metal legends Celtic Frost and their universally reviled Cold Lake album, one of the brilliant observational lyrics littered throughout Goths and final track Abandoned Flesh which is a low key that references certain goth heroes including Robert Smith, Siousie, Red Lorry Yellow Larry and most importantly Gene Loves Jezebel, the forgotten goth band that the song is about and this song seems to typify the whole album with its well observed and is the perfect way to sign things off.
With Goths, Mountain Goats have taken a concept for the album that in the wrong hands, probably wouldn’t have worked at all but in the hands of Mountain Goats, the concept is handled beautifully with the right amount of respect for the subjects they sing about and it’s obvious that what they sing about, they are definitely passionate about. So put on Goths and rebel in its beauty and brilliance, it may lead you to dig out old The Cure, Siouxsie & The Banshees and maybe even Gene Loves Jezebel records.
Goths is out now via Merge Records
Words: Gavin Brown