Release Date: 09/10/2008 Label: 4ad Link:

So you know when your friend with a musical brain the size of fifty-three Steve Lamaqs thrusts some mp3’s your way and insist that you listen to them, claiming it will change your entire life? Yeah, you have every intention of giving them a proper listen, and do admire from a distance, but ultimately they just sit in your iTunes with a ‘Play Count: 0’ next to them. Well for me, this had been my relationship with The Mountain Goats. A long-distance relationship. The good thing about reviewing is that you HAVE to listen to artists that you wouldn’t normally, or just too lazy to listen.

The Satanic Messiah EP (with only 666 copies released, or FREE download only) comes just 8 months after the well-received album Heretic Pride, a common occurrence with the prolific outfit. It is a departure from that record and is considerably more stripped back, minimal, and simply quieter; tracks Satanic Messiah and Gojam Province 1968 just featuring John Darnielle’s intense made for story-telling voice and haunting piano. A constant on the record is the evocative lyricism of Darnielle and the characters with vivid imagery he creates. The moving Gojam Province 1968 tells the story from the perspective of an Ethiopian caught in the revolt, with devastatingly beautiful lyrics such as: “Then all at once comes the motorcade/ Slow and steady down the beaten track/ And as we’re bashing out the windows of the limo/ We notice there’s nobody in the back."

Satanic Messiah again mesmerizes, taking the viewpoint of a follower of a band/leader (the same is true of opener Sarcofago Live). Satanic Messiah could, and has been interpreted by some as the most Barack Obama song since The National’s Mr. November, something that Darnielle dismisses. “I saw the posters popping up around the city /Pale blue and washed-out red/ I went down to the arena pushing through /Hoping I’d run into you”. Wizard Buys a Hat differs subtly from the other tracks in is use of minimalistic drums driving the rhythm, creating visceral images in the listeners mind.

Stunningly beautiful if you are prepared to sit down and listen to a few times. Trust your geeky unwashed musical friend next time.