The Mountain Goats
' aggressively lo-fi
early releases were recorded entirely on one Panasonic
tape machine's built-in condenser mic
, the loud whirring of the spools overlayed over everything--the singing and guitar-playing of John Darnielle
(the groups' only permanent member,) as well as the occasional accompanying musician.
Releases post-1995 featured a mix of studio and boombox-recorded songs until 2002's 100% tape-recorded All Hail West Texas, followed later than year by the entirely studio-recorded Tallahassee.
The majority of John Darnielle's songs are fictional, and the past decade of album releases has seen the emergence of a persistent narrative chronicling the trials of the "alpha couple," so-named by fans because most songs about them feature the word "alpha" in the title. Feuding spouses constantly on the cusp of divorce, their chronicle seemed to end in Protein Source of the Future ... Now!'s song Alpha Omega.
Tallahassee is the long-rumored all-alpha couple concept album, following the final days of their relationship in a newly-purchased house in Tallahassee as they drink themselves and their marriage to death. The album's liner note prologue is beautiful:
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.
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 . . . 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 we’d been knocked down, 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 . . . 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.
Tallahassee also finds the Mountain Goats signed to a new record label, 4AD. The album was recorded at Tarbox Road Studios in upstate New York and released on November 4, 2002 in the United States and January 20, 2003 in the United Kingdom, with a limited-print single featuring the song No Children and album outtakes New Chevrolet In Flames and Design Your Own Container Garden.
The track list:
02 First Few Desperate Hours
03 Southwood Plantation Road
04 Game Shows Touch Our Lives
05 The House That Dripped Blood
06 Idylls Of The King
07 No Children
08 See America Right
10 International Small Arms Traffic Blues
11 Have To Explode
12 Old College Try
13 Oceanographers Choice
14 Alpha Rats Nest