New releases from the Mountain Goats and Goldfrapp, and a thrashing new anthology
The Mountain Goats Heretic Pride (4AD)
John Darnielle bounces back from a pretty boring album (2006â’s Get Lonely) with one of his most energetic and eclectic releases. Thereâ’s even a rock song, with electric guitars and everything (â“Lovecraft in Brooklynâ”). Heretic Pride features the fullest band Darnielle has recruited yet for the Mountain Goats, including guitarist Alastair Galbraith, members of the Bright Mountain Choir, and chamber-jazz cellist Erik Friedlander. As immediately inviting as the disc is, though, as with all Mountain Goats releases, the lyrics are the real draw: Darnielle considers a lake monster in China, a heavy-metal T-shirt, slasher movies, horror writer H.P. Lovecraftâ’s racism, and the death of reggae singer Prince Far I. The songs are all about far more than those subjects indicate, of courseâ"a song about the mystery writer Sax Rohmer grows into a meditation on distance and return, and â“Sept. 15, 1983,â” about Prince Farâ’s murder, is really about love in a hateful world (â“Try, try your whole life to be righteous and be good/Wind up on your own floor, choking on bloodâ”).
Goldfrapp Seventh Tree (Mute)
The international success of the single â“Trainâ” in 2003 propelled Goldfrapp into even more glammed-up dance-rock for the 2005 album Supernature. The British duoâ"Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregoryâ"retreat back to their downtempo beginnings on Seventh Tree, which, despite the absence of a dance-floor hit, is a gorgeous folk- and bubblegum-influenced success. The groupâ’s melodic instincts survive on Seventh Tree, but theyâ’re couched in slow, supple arrangements that incorporate folk guitar and piano amid the synthetic orchestration. Even â“Caravan Girl,â” the biggest song on Seventh Tree, shows off a romantic streak that Goldfrapp has never demonstrated so clearly before. It can almost be too muchâ"the swells of closing track â“Monster Loveâ” and what sounds like a harpsichord on the first single, â“A&E,â” nearly push those songs into pap, but Alison Goldfrapp never follows. Sheâ’s got a big voice but she knows how to use it, and she holds the disc back from melodrama.
Various Artists Thrashing Like a Maniac (Earache)
In case you havenâ’t been keeping up with the metal magazines, you should know thereâ’s a full-fledged revival of old-school thrash metal underway. If you ever wore a bullet belt or a black leather vest over a denim jacket, this thrash resurgenceâ"a rekindling of the galloping rhythms, mosh-pit breaks, and barking vocals of early Metallica, Anthrax, Exodus, and Testament, with a dose of crossover punk like D.R.I. and Cryptic Slaughterâ"is like high school all over again.
Bands like Municipal Waste, Evile, SSS, and Fueled by Fire probably donâ’t have any members who were old enough to drive when Slayerâ’s Reign in Blood was released, but they all riff their way through this compilation like Metallicaâ’s Black Album never happened. The appeal of Thrashing Like a Maniac, unfortunately, is the kind of nostalgia that borders on parody. The bands seem to take themselves pretty seriously (aside from â“Zombi Brewâ” by Gama Bomb and â“The Art of Partyingâ” by Municipal Waste) but the whole movement reeks of tribute-band precision. These bands have perfected a photorealistic (just look at some of their promo shots!) recreation that may serve as a useful antidote to the glut of melodic metal bands with hardcore breakdowns. But wait until the end of the year. See how fresh this stuff sounds then. â" Matthew Everett
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