Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Mountain Goats: The Life of the World to Come [4AD, 2009]
If you want to name your songs "1 Samuel 15:23," "Psalms 40:2," and so forth, perhaps it would be kind to reproduce--not the lyrics, too vulgar I know, but the verses cited. It was only after I took the trouble to read each one before listening that the album came into focus, which blurred within tolerable range when I replayed it without my trusty King James at hand. Some of these songs hold up dandy by themselves: the one keyed to the exit from Eden in which a divorced husband steals back into the house he couldn't make a home, or the "good and faithful servant" one that chronicles a cancer death. But exegesis by contrast is the basic strategy. Message: The punishments God's minions threaten you can count on, but when they promise grace, figure life will trip you up big-time anyway. This is literary rock as it should be. John Darnielle knows it's not enough to write. You have to think, too. A-