Surprise! I own records pressed in the last quarter-century!
This is one of the few first-hand albums in my collection. I bought it circa 2008, six years post release.
Reading through the credits, I learned of an affiliation with John Vanderslice, whom my brother and wife took me to hear at Des Moines’ Vaudeville Mews.
– Apparently, my plan to write 55-word intros to look ever so pretty on the front page will not work out; it seems to be more a character count thing, and my determination is not such that I’m getting into all that pijazz until the syndication offers start rolling in. –
But, I digress.
SIDE 1: 1. Tallahassee; 2. First Few Desperate Hours; 3. Southwood Plantation Road; 4. Game Shows Touch Our Lives; 5. The House That Dripped Blood; 6. Idylls of the King; 7. No Children.
♠SIDE 2: 8. See America Right; 9. Peacocks; 10. International Small Arms Traffic Blues; 11. Have to Explode; 12. Old College Try; 13. Oceanographer’s Choice; 14. Alpha Rats Nest.
I bought this album because I’d heard “No Children.” This may be odd, but it seems like my favorite tracks often hover around #7 or #8. (The Walkmen’s “We’ve Been Had”? Track 8. Castanets’ “Blood Pt.2”? Track 7. Beatles’ “Happiness Is…”? Also an 8.) I hold speculation over this just naturally being the point in the album where I come to a more full appreciation for what the musicians intended to say; sometimes it feels the completion of a thought started in songs prior. I’ll have to re-listen to Side 2, but Side 1 reads like a storybook.
The heart of “Tallahassee” is laid out in the liner notes:
We came into town under cover of night, because we were pretty
sure the people here were going to hate us once they really got to
know us. It was summer. It’s always summer with us. In our lives
together, which are sweet in the way of rotting things, it is
somehow permanently summer.
THE MOON rose above the trees, older than time, greener than
money. You hung your head out the window of our dusty lemon-
yellow El Camino and howled, and I turned up the radio, because
the sound of your voice was already beginning to get to me.
The speakers crackled and the music came through: Frankie Valli
and the Four Seasons. Pretty as a midsummer’s morn, they call her
Dawn. Let the love of God come and get us if it wants us so bad.
We know where we are going when all of this is done.
SOME PEOPLE MIGHT SAY that buying a house you’ve never
actually seen close-up is a bad idea, but what does anybody know
about our needs, anyhow? For us it was perfect. The peeling paint.
The old cellar. The garden in the back. The porch out front.
The still air of the living room. The attic. Everywhere entirely
unfurnished and doomed to remain largely so, save for our own
meager offerings: a cheap sofa, an old mattress, a couple of chairs
and some ashtrays. Maybe a table salvaged from some diner gone
into bankruptcy, I don’t remember. Neither do you. We drank
store-brand gin with fresh lime juice out of plastic cups or straight
from the bottle and we spread ourselves out face-up on the
wooden floors. An aerial view of us might have suggested that we’d
been knocked out, but what we were doing was staking our
claim. Establishing our territories. Making good. Not on the vows
we’d made but on the ones we’d really meant. You produced a
wallet-sized transistor radio out of nowhere and you found a
sympathetic station: somebody was playing Howlin’ Wolf.
Smokestack lightning. O yes, I loved you once. O yes, you loved
me more. We entered our new house like a virus entering its host.
You following me, me following you. However you like. The
windows were high and the walls were thick and sturdy. It was
hot as blazes. The guts of summer. Always down in the sugar-deep
barrel- bottom belly of summer itself. Always. In our shared walk
down to the bottom, which bottom we will surely find if only our
hearts are brave and our love true enough, we have found that it
is somehow invariably and quite permanently summer.
It’s a love song…a very long love song, the kind that tells the details of how love really is felt, not the kind sold in hook songs. This was written past-tense, perhaps from the perspective of the man writing track #7? The two are seeming counter-parts, boldly speaking of the real thoughts real people have in real relationships (verisimilitude!) – sometimes laughably absurd despite their earnestly-felt slings and arrows, it’s the assurance that someone else out there has underwent the rigors that strain heartstrings between ‘love’ and ‘loathe’ that makes everyone who hears “No Children” want to give John Darnielle a big ‘ol hug of gratitude. Thanks, man.
The Mountain Goats do not themselves play ambient dub, or if they do, do so with such total lack of attention to the most basic elements of the genre that their efforts can only be described as falling so wide of the mark as to have missed it entirely. Jussi Bjorling, should he rise from the grave, will in fact put his tenor to entirely novel use by assisting us in honing the focus of our efforts in the ambient dub field. We look forward to this project with almost painfully sharp hunger and hope that you share our admittedly puzzling enthusiasm for it.
Recorded at Tarbox Studios
New York, by the unflappable
Mr. Tony Doogan assisted by
the only slightly flappable
Art Direction & Design: Vaughan Oliver at v23
Design Assistance: Charles Grant
Photography: Dominic Davies
The Copyright in
this sound recording
is owned by 4AD Ltd
17-19 Alma Road
London SW18 1AA