With Heretic Pride, the unifying theme is gone, but the ghosts of these previous albums live on. As I listen to this album, I keep finding myself plugging the songs into the story lines of earlier works.
"Sax Rohmer #1" would fit quite neatly onto the Tallahassee album; it's all about things decaying and spinning out of control as "every moment leads toward it's own sad end," yet the narrator insists in the chorus, "I am coming home to you with my own blood in my mouth." It easily fits into what John refers to as his "alpha" series, songs about a drunken dysfunctional couple.
"San Bernidino" reminds me of We Shall All Be Healed both musically and lyrically, while "Autoclave" reminds me of The Sunset Tree --"I am this great unstable mass of blood and foam and no one in her right mind would make my heart her home."
I wasn't a huge fan of Get Lonely, but my favorite track on Heretic Pride, "Marduk T-Shirt Men's Room Incident" would be perfectly at home on that album with it's narrator telling a girl in a bathroom who has obviously just survived some horrible experience:
It's an odd song that seems to offer hope in the fact that a human life is a rather ephemeral thing; our worst moments drift off into time little remembered or mourned, so there's no point for us to let them weigh us down. It's almost as if our very insignificance is a key to a type of holiness. Or, perhaps I'm reading too much into this. Of course, one reason I've been a fan of the Mountain Goats through a string of over ten albums is that John's songs possess that marvelous quality of seeming to be full of meaning--they reward listening and relistening in a way that lesser artist can't quite achieve. I've probably listened to The Coroner's Gambit album well over a hundred times, and every time I always seem to find some new poetic key that unfolds a new message. I listen to the mountain goats with the same faithful ferver that some men read the Bible.
Still, as much as I love the mountain goats, I was willing to pan their last album as mopey and overly produced. Hopefully my willingness to give them a thumbs down will give extra weight to the thumbs up I'm giving Heretic Pride. I've been listening to it non-stop since I picked it up last week, and I have a feeling that the next mix album I make of MG material will be heavy with tracks from Heretic Pride. As I type this, I'm listening to track 8, "Lovecraft in Brooklyn." What other songwriter could pull of a climax to a song like this?
Woke up afraid of my own shadow,
like, genuinely afraid.
Headed for the pawnshop
to buy myself a switchblade.
Someday something's coming
from way out beyond the stars
to kill us while we stand here;
it will store our brains in mason jars.
And then the girl behind the counter asks "How do you feel today?"
and I say "I feel like Lovecraft in Brooklyn!"
Ah, good stuff. And I can't think of any other album this song fits on. Ultimately, it's songs like this that really pull Heretic Pride over the line into greatness.