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Album Review

This is classic Mountain Goats: songs about broken (or soon to be broken) relationships, food, and flora rendered in vivid detail and recorded straight to boom box. Atop characteristically ragged and percussive guitar playing, John Darnielle works wonders of condensation, creating lively, complex characters in less than three minutes. Despite the flag on the cover and hilarious liner notes about the "Swede conspiracy," this isn't a concept album about the homeland of Ace of Base and ABBA, nor are there any covers of those two Darnielle favorites. There is, however, perhaps the best cover of Steely Dan's "FM" imaginable. No Alpha songs here either, but two more in the "Going to" series — "Going to Queens" and "Going to Bolivia" — and the outstanding "Tahitian Ambrosia Maker," which is something of a mix between Gilligan's Island and Heart of Darkness (beginning, "We were real hungry, half dead, when you broke out a half a loaf of sourdough bread, and in the tropical air the scent rose like a spirit"), make Sweden among the best of the early releases from the Mountain Goats. Zopilote Machine is maybe more consistent, but 1995's Sweden sets a high-water mark not surpassed until The Coroner's Gambit in 2000.

Biography

Formed: 1991 in Claremont, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

The Mountain Goats are, for all practical purposes, the endlessly clever and prolific John Darnielle and whatever musicians he surrounds himself with, which means that while the soundscape may change from project to project, the overall tone and feel of Darnielle's work remains remarkably consistent. At his best, he writes finely observed, slightly surreal, impressionistic vignettes that manage to mix life as we live it with life...
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