THE MOUNTAIN GOATS We Shall All Be Healed (4AD/Beggars Group) Rating: NNN
Insanely prolific indie balladeer John Darnielle (who records under the Mountain Goats moniker) turns away from the mythic dysfunctional couple of his Alpha series, last seen on 2002's Tallahassee, and sketches out the feverish, dry-mouthed ramblings of outlaws and meth addicts holed up in seedy motels by the side of desolate desert highways. His voice is harsh and shrill, with a sour edge like the sinus drip left over after you snort lines. It's unpretty but works weirdly well with the album's spaghetti western bass lines, watery guitars and baroque violin arrangements. There's a muddled urgency to his grotesquely poetic lyrics, a tweaker's attention to inane details and a nightmarish sense of time and place, but Darnielle misses the emotional depth that made Tallahassee so powerful.