hello folks! today, we’re wrapping up what turned out to be a six month project with the most recent record from the Mountain Goats, Jenny From Thebes, released last October when i was earlier in the discography. it’s been billed as a return to some characters that were on the All Hail West Texas record (and have made some appearances elsewhere), so i’m very interested to see where they go with that concept.

Clean Slate contains some references to Color In Your Cheeks, describes some folks looking for solace, and spends some time musing on the concept of memory, a theme we’ll see throughout the record. Ground Level is about a house – based on what John Darnielle has said, this is the southwestern ranch style house. Only One Way feels very comfortable in a nice way. i dig the callback to Distant Stations here a fair bit. Fresh Tattoo feels like it’s been crafted to be a centerpiece, describing Jenny offering shelter to someone in need after getting a tattoo. i go back and forth on this one. there’s parts i don’t think work as well but the crest near the end is quite effective. i do think it’s odd to wait this long to be straightforwardly narrative – taking Clean Slate as a sort of introduction, a stage setter, makes sense, but Ground Level providing a shrouded location description and Only One Way being an ode to scraping by before digging in more feels, well, odd. Cleaning Crew is a kind of farewell – you dont think about a cleaning crew unless you’re expecting a disaster. Murder at the 18th St. Garage is a jam of a track about a dude getting wrecked in an auto shop. really really like this one a lot – the guitars work here, the chorus is catchy as hell, i like it. From the Nebraska Plant calls directly back to Jenny’s Kawasaki, from the narrator of Jenny’s original song, reminiscing about how long ago that was. a nice quieter track. Same As Cash has a specific vibe i think is really neat – my brain wants to say Springsteen but there’s a specific kind of folky rock narration that reminds me of Harry Chapin’s music. Water Tower is i think the least impactful for me. Jenny III doesn’t really do it for me at all. i get that it’s the kinda high moment before leading into the end of the record but i dunno. oooh we get a Going to song in Going to Dallas, that’s fun! its a bummer that i’m not really feeling the other supporting vocals on this song. Great Pirates directly recalls the chorus of Jenny – i think this is an extremely strong closer.

faves – Murder at the 18th St. Garage
dislikes –

a large portion of this record rests on your opinions of All Hail West Texas – there’s significant lyrical callback, and the narrative throughline of the record that’s supported by paratext is one that surrounds a read of a narrative of that record. the broad strokes – that the titular Jenny struggles to support herself but tries to provide for others, and is involved in an incident that leaves her on the run – aren’t that dependent on outside knowledge but inform why she’s important to narrators of other songs and why she’s absent from those songs.

i think then that i came in with a disadvantage – i don’t particularly like the tight read of AHWT that follows that the songs are connected like the subtitle of the record implies, and i think tying itself so tightly to something that doesn’t feel like it needs narrative connection puts it at risk of falling flat if it doesn’t nail those connection. and like, there are places where i like it, but there are definitely places in the record where it doesn’t nail the landing, or where the connection feels way too surface level to be meaningful.

Jenny From Thebes – 5/10

and that wraps up The Mountain Goats discography! i’m still fairly excited to see what they do in the future – while i think the most recent run of records has some weak spots there’s a lot i still really like out of it and it seems like they’re full steam ahead, so count me on board, haha.

for the next discography review, we’re gonna be taking a look at Missio, an electronic duo from Texas!

support the band by checking this album out on Bandcamp!

the beginning: Zopilote Machine | previous: Bleed Out | next: who knows!

all my reviews for The Mountain Goats