Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Mountain Goats: Bleed Out [Merge, 2022]
It's not like John Darnielle grabbed a chance to go on either vacation or what they call hiatus. Near as we can tell he never stops, and during the pandemic he not only put out two matched if insufficiently indistinguishable live-in-the-studio jobs headed The Jordan Lake Sessions but recorded an album of songs inspired by French hellenist Pierre Chuvin and then funneled the proceeds directly to his Covid-grounded road crew. But the mere rockers in the vast ring of fans who surround his giant cult will be pleased to note that after a long keyby spell, this one leans heavily on electric guitars. As a result the tracks seem to coalesce even when you don't altogether follow the allusive logic of their lyrics, although that's less problematic than usual on the most compelling bunch of songs he's put in one place in over a decade. Good guys or bad guys, most of the protagonists here are on some edge or other in a culture stretched near the breaking point by greed and violence that have become commonplaces. The title track is a finale. It offers zero hope that all will end well. A