Saturday, October 14, 2006

Thunder and the Mountain

The only two essential bands in America today: Thunderegg and the Mountain Goats

The 'Egg bask in semi-obscurity ("poised to break into cult status"), the Goats have grown into a major label cult, but both have been incredibly productive, in spite of their obscurity, and are writing some of the best songs in America today.

Thunderegg started out in Yale in 1993 under the name Larry. They are led by Will Georgantas, who sings and plays guitar and tends to write the songs. Jake Fournier plays bass, and Keith Woodfin drums. They adopted the name Thunderegg in anticipation of a move to Oregon that never materialised. Instead they made their home in Connecticut, gigging around New York and New Jersey.

Their first CD was Universal Nut in 1995. 27 tracks recorded by Will on a 4 track. That was followed by New England Music (1996), Personnel Envelo-File (1997), Thunderegg (1997), Powder to the People (1998), In Yanistin (2000), The Envelope Pushes Back (2000), Sweetest One: The Three-track Demos (2004).

In 2005, Thunderegg recorded 52 new songs, a song a week, putting each one on their website and encouraging fans to vote for their favourite. Top of the pile was a track that originally surfaced on The Envelope Pushes Back:

Their latest product is the full-band debut "A Very Fine Sample of What's Available at the Mine" (2005), the kind of (as they say on the website) "100 percent do-it-yourself, straightforward, head-nodding rock album people don't really make anymore".

However, their magnum opus has been Open Book, released early this year: 213 newly mastered songs, 523 minutes of mp3 files on a single data CD collecting together the first full 8 albums plus some extra tracks, with a 108 page book of lyrics, in a limited edition of 1000. It's an absolutely stunning achievement, and filled to the brim with classic songs. Probably one of the most essential music items so far (so-fa) of the 21st century.

Buy it here:

listen more here:

and check out this Egg fan

The Mountain Goats are a different kettle of fish, having made the leap to major label artistes after a decade in the wilderness, and now receiving the recognition they deserve.

The MGs are led by John Darnielle, the single constant in this ever changing band and "America's best lyricist" (the New Yorker). Indiana born, Darnelle grew up in California. He began making low fi home recordings released on tape in the early 1990s by the Shrimper label. Increasingly the albums began to get more sophisticated, and since signing to 4AD they'ev become almost majestic in their recording richness (compared to the early MGs, but probably not if compared to anyone else!)

Their latest album is Get Lonely (2006), coming close after The Sunset Tree (2005), and that was preceded by We Shall All Be Healed (2004), Tallahassee (2003) - all on 4AD records. And then: All Hail West Texas (2002), The Coroner's Gambit (2000), Full Force Galesburg (1997), Nothing for Juice (1996), Sweden (1995), and Zopilote Machine (1994) plus various compilations of early singles, cassette album tracks and numerous tracks featured on many compilations. For a full discography go here.

Some free tracks

Mountain Goats songs are often dark affairs, full of outsider characters and strange relationships ("hey! we've all been through some shit!"). But they can be uplifting and poppy as well. Basically, they don't sound much like anything else, an individuality aided by JD's spitting-from-the-back-of-the-throat vocal style and determinedly simple jangling guitar.

Take these lyrics from 'Woke Up New' (2006):

"And I wandered through the house like a little boy lost at the mall / And an astronaut could have seen the hunger in my eyes from space"

What more could you want from a band? (oh, alright - another track)

Buy Mountain Goats albums by clicking on the
links below:

Get Lonely

The Sunset Tree


or go visit the 3 beads of sweat website for the early singles compilations and a steady stream of re-released early MG CDs.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Jesus Camp

This is scary. Kids worshipping to a George Bush Picture. Being prepared for self-sacrifice in the name of their God like those good folk in the Middle East. These people could be your neighbours.

Probably the scariest bit is when the completely normal and sane-sounding girl says:

"we're kind of being trained to be warriors
- only in a much funner way".

You'd laugh, if it weren't so terrifying. Who exactly are the enemy?!

The rarified musical interlude is from God's own country-rock king, something obscure but charming from homespun god-folk, and some authentic gospel blues.

(Thanks again to WFMU's Beware of the Blog)

Now, if that ain't enough Jeezus I don't know what is?