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Nothing for Juice

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Album Review

As the last album with co-vocalist Rachel Ware, the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle composed a startlingly diverse 18-song collection with 1996's Nothing for Juice. Starting off with the casual narrative "Then the Letting Go," he quickly turns serious and meditative on the second track, "Heights." What follows is a mostly acoustic, defiantly lo-fi disc, bursting with immediacy and urgency. Covers of Robert Johnson's "Hellhound on My Trail" and Chet Baker's "Moon and Sand" appear. Cover songs rarely find their way onto Mountain Goats discs (a notable cover of Ace of Base's "The Sign" notwithstanding), yet Darnielle clearly adopts each cover as his own, relentlessly immersing himself in each of the carefully selected songs. "I Will Grab You by the Ears" and "It Froze Me" stand out as classic Mountain Goats, as Darnielle viscerally adopts first-person monologues. A rare electric guitar appears on "Full Flower," and four additions to Darnielle's "Going to..." series of songs appear on the second half of the disc. Tapping into many of his characters' urges to travel, the songs are inescapably wrought with adventure and themes of love and desire. "Waving at You" is an instant classic, blending a continuous guitar line with heartbreaking lyrics about an impending divorce, and "I Corinthians 13:8-10" might take its title from the biblical verses, but in actuality the song blissfully describes a couple in love in World War II Poland. Darnielle and Ware sing in melody on the blissful closer "Going to Scotland." Nothing for Juice again showcased the ingenuity of Darnielle, one of the most engaging songwriters of his time. Chicago's Ajax Records released the disc in 1996.


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 as we wish we could live it, and as such he has more in common with...
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