by carl wilson

Getting Lonely?

Richard Buckner, photographed live by the improbably named Randy Bacon.

Apologies for my blog truancy this week, especially to those who'd wanted to hear my report from the Guelph jazz fest. The logistics of the multi-track career thing can sometimes go haywire. But some of the results become visible today and in the next few: First of all, there is my Mountain Goats article today in The Globe and Mail. The piece clarifies some of the points I tried to make in an aborted Zoilus post last week on the new album, Get Lonely, albeit more (perhaps too) drily, for newsprint consumption. One idea that didn't make it into the piece: Beyond the subject-matter and artistic-evolution reasons for the subdued vocal tone on Get Lonely, I wonder if Darnielle might (even subconsciously) be backing away from his yelpy vocal style because it's no longer very unique - it's what all the kids are doing, at their burning arcades and their promenades of wolves and their handclapping yeah-saying parties? So rather than trying to yell overtop of those with fresher pinker young lungs, the comparative veteran chooses to undercut them with a whisper. Maybe it's rude to say so but I think Darnielle has a good showman's instinct along with his keen artistic sense, and getting away from yelping seems like a wise pack-breaking strategy at this point. (By the way, I've got an essay coming up later this fall in EnRoute about what to make of those yelpy little buggers.)

Also today I was supposed to have a review in the paper of the new Richard Buckner album, Meadow, in advance of his show tomorrow night at the Horseshoe in Toronto (with Eric Bachmann). For some reason it did not run. This is a shame, because I think it's the strongest outing from him - a songwriter I hold in very very high esteem, right up there with the likes of John Darnielle - in a very long time. So, if you're interested, you can preview it on the jump.

Also, tomorrow keep an eye on The Globe - or on this site - for my feature about the fabled oracle of Houston, none other than Jandek, whose first-ever Canadian concert takes place in Toronto on Sunday.

(Merge Records)
★ ★ ★ ☆

Some eight records along, Richard Buckner is no longer the nearly unbeatable pick he seemed to be in the late 1990s for most-powerful American singer-songwriter of his generation. After three classic, visceral albums, he grew into a more abstract style that gave up vivid subject matter for writerly adjectival compounds, and distinct melodies for explorations of the curlicue paces he could run his guitars and baritone pipes through. But on Meadow, producer JD Foster thrusts the words and the voice back up in front of rocket-propelled rock arrangments, and suddenly even Buckner's most impressionistic portraits of loss and leaving sound once again like stories you can't ignore, phrase after unparsable phrase pounding another spike into the casket of overlooked insights: What will you miss when things are fine? ... It's just too far the way we are.... - Carl Wilson

Read More | In Depth | Posted by zoilus on Friday, September 15 at 1:52 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (9)



I am a recent semi-convert to The Mountain Goats but can see Mr. Barclay's problems with him/them. The early records were difficult if not impossible for me to listen to all the way through. Although, periodically, a song or two would rise up and catch me off guard. I stopped at Tallahassee and wasn't interested in pursuing the music any further but the constant press and assurances (from reliable sources) that The Sunset Tree was a great record finally broke down my reluctance. It is rather good (and getting better) and I am glad I finally listened. It takes a full listen to sink in but is very moving by the time you reach the end. I was surprised how much I liked it and am going to pick up the new record once I have lived with this one a bit longer.

I do agree with MB that the music isn't the attraction and no one would listen to him without the lyrical chops but that criticism could be used against a lot of artists that i enjoy.

To experience both just pick up some Richard Buckner...

Posted by Brendan on September 18, 2006 9:10 PM



First time in Canada?

Posted by pemulis on September 17, 2006 10:16 AM



The Ochs comparison for Darnielle's voice is pretty good, John - but the mode of earnestness very different, as Darnielle doesn't sing with the kind of declarative speech-making tone that Ochs does. There's something more intimate about Darnielle's singing - even in his more revved up mode, he generally sings more in a way that sounds like he's blurting out these lyrics almost involuntarily, saying things he's not sure he wants to say but can't help saying. Whereas Ochs always sounded kind of proud of himself.

(And I like Phil Ochs too.)

Posted by zoilus on September 16, 2006 12:11 PM



I might get in 6 sorts of trouble for saying this, but Darnielle's singing reminds me of Phil Ochs, the timbre especially, and the timbre in service of the lyric-centric approach, and the earnestness. He has written some beautiful *tunes* ("Lion's Tooth" is musically gorgeous as well as lyrically), and Phil Ochs-iness is not a turn-off to me, though it probably spells Bad News for different people in different ways. (Darnielle's songs and stance aren't like Ochs's; his earnestness, when it's not sardonic, is a lot different.)

Posted by john on September 16, 2006 11:53 AM



by the way, i wrote that post before i read your passionate piece, which was really quite beautiful and affecting--and yet another reason why i wished i liked this band.

Posted by barclay on September 16, 2006 11:21 AM



Hey Carl,

On my way out the door but wanted to say what a WONDERFUL article your Jandek piece was - very well written. See you tomorrow.

Plus: I love the Buckner album. He puts on a great show, too.

Danen Jobe

Posted by Danen Jobe on September 16, 2006 6:29 AM



i think he stopped yelping because it was fucking annoying.
seriously, i've tried so hard to listen to mountain goats records, and i've even gone to see him live, to better appreciate the lyrics that i keep reading about. every time i come away finding the music way too earnest, too clipped, too uptight, and frankly, too white (oh, here we go...) and, try as i may, i can't get engaged with the wordplay at all when sung in that voice.

here's the controversial question: would anyone give a shit about the mountain goats if he was any less of a lyric writer? honestly, does anybody, anywhere have anything good to say about the music? does he just do this music thing coz a career in poetry is a death wish?
i'm honestly curious, and not deliberately attacking a sacred cow 'round these parts.

p.s. i did like his bass player, but i still left the show early. o, no wait, i didn't--i remember now, he only played about 40 minutes in montreal, which was his first time in canada. mind you, i think that gives him enough time to do 15 songs.

Posted by barclay on September 15, 2006 4:29 PM



"...what to make of those yelpy little buggers."


Posted by Jamie on September 15, 2006 3:40 PM



So, what about Guelph? :-)

Posted by nick on September 15, 2006 3:27 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson