The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle has written songs about speed-freaks, drug-dealing high school running backs, short-time jail inmates, big rabbits, debt collectors, garden-seed salesmen, bootleggers, alcoholics, and attic-dwellers. In the whole lot, the only honest man Darnielle ever bothered writing about was himself. We Shall All Be Healed, The Sunset Tree, and Get Lonely-- his last three albums-- were the autobiographical invocations he'd staved off for over a decade and some 400 songs. Since 2004, he's been his own only subject, after 12 years of avoiding a biography full of sharp objects. "As you all know," Darnielle used to say from stage, "I don't write songs about myself."On Heretic Pride, his newest, the "I" is once again someone else: hopeless urchins, spies from China, a girl in a Marduk t-shirt, a young father, a kid in a Marcus Allen jersey, H.P. Lovecraft in Brooklyn, a reggae singer with a bullet hole in his chest. The antic, hammering thrum of the Mountain Goats' tape-grind era-- before the finer arrangements, the ornamentation, the orchestration of the band's first four 4AD releases-- returns.
Pitchfork Review, February 2008