Talk about your indie musical act: When John Darnielle took his The Mountain Goats imprimatur to the small 4AD label seven years ago, it was a technological leap forward from the beatbox accompaniment and cassette format releases that had comprised the bulk of his previous output.
It was the offhand specificity of his insights combined with the quantity of his material that made Darnielle’s DIY aesthetic such an effective, if obviously limited, marketing ploy. Whether it was a compilation tape, a 7-inch vinyl single or even a proper CD gathered from the cassettes, the effect was like stumbling over previously buried treasure, a cache accessible only by being hip to certain codes and whispered words-of-mouth — or by accident.
Suddenly you were hearing this thin, urgent voice, usually over churning acoustic guitar, unearthing what was resonant in the mundane. Or maybe it was that he was downsizing big-deal songwriter subjects like romance and religion into the mundane daily increments that deliver the insight.
While the six CDs The Mountain Goats have released on 4AD since 2002 have not surprisingly featured increasingly richer and more carefully recorded music, Darnielle’s songwriting remains literate yet utterly ingenuous, as if he were a guy stocking groceries a few courses short of his master’s in philosophy or English — and with a few skeletons effectively stashed in his closet. Which makes Saturday night’s ambitious, sold-out show at the Cedar Cultural Center (a co-production with the Walker Art Center) especially intriguing.
Along with the now-longtime bassist Peter Hughes and more recent fellow Goat Jon Wurster on drums, Darnielle will be joined at the Cedar by Owen Pallett of Final Fantasy, whose violin loops and string arrangements adorn the latest Mountain Goats record, “The Life of the World To Come.”
With its rapturous title and song titles correlated to biblical text, one might think this is an overtly religious record. And it is, excerpt that Darnielle is allergic to orthodoxy in any form, meaning that his blasphemous rebuttals, like his acknowledgement of the legitimacy of an afterlife, stem from scrutiny, skepticism and curiosity more than a desire to confirm, deny or otherwise pontificate.
As will once again be made obvious on Saturday, then, Darnielle’s choice of band moniker is wonderfully apt: This Mountain Goat prefers to keep his mind on the roam among rugged terrain.
Speaking of rebuttals, here is Darnielle contradicting the spirited intent of his originally spry, talking-blues tune “Dance Music” with a subdued version.
The Mountain Goats with Final Fantasy at the Cedar Cultural Center, Saturday, Nov. 7, 8 p.m.; tickets $20, $18 for Walker Art Center members. Sold out.