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We Shall All Be Healed

The Mountain Goats

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Album Review

If possible, the Mountain Goats' We Shall All Be Healed is an even bigger, lusher-sounding work than Tallahassee, the group's 4AD debut and the debut of their more polished production style. Whether or not this approach is somehow less authentic or more invasive than the ultra lo-fi sound of John Darnielle and company's earlier albums is up for debate, but, as with Tallahassee, it's a choice that works well for this particular set of songs. In fact, the lush strings and pianos that grace the album only make Darnielle's relentlessly strummed guitars and unadorned vocals sound even more strikingly plain. On Tallahassee, the Mountain Goats used their newfound polish to emphasize the album's decaying Southern gothic romance; We Shall All Be Healed sounds bright and crisp, burning with righteous anger that is fueled by Darnielle's sardonic humor. Beginning with "Slow West Vultures"' rapid-fire acoustic guitars and snippets of forced laughter and shattering glass, the album makes full use of its widescreen production; "Linda Blair Was Born Innocent" is searching and sad, using touches of Americana without sounding hidebound to that sound. As with all of his Mountain Goats work, We Shall All Be Healed has a passion lacking in a lot of music that is much louder. Darnielle's high, insistent voice, punctuated by his relentless strumming, is particularly intense on the talky, funny "Palmcorder Yajna." The oddly rousing "The Young Thousands" manages to be atmospheric and direct at the same time, and on "Home Again Garden Grove" Darnielle sounds like a veteran returning home. The album's softer songs retain that intensity: "All Up the Seething Coast" is quiet and mostly spoken word, but it recalls the calm before the storm more than the coffeehouse. "Cotton" is a sad and lovely song "for the people who tell their families they're sorry for things that they can't and won't be sorry for," and the cryptically lovely "Your Belgian Things" allows the listener to piece together a tumultuous story from Darnielle's recollections: "I can see you in my sleep/Playing the points for all you're worth/Walking gingerly across/The bruised earth." As musically and lyrically accomplished as We Shall All Be Healed is, it's not quite as gripping or rich as the best of the Mountain Goats' earlier work or Tallahassee, but that's relative; on its own terms, the album is still profoundly smart and profoundly emotional.

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...
Full bio