July 310, 1997
Full Force Galesburg (Emperor Jones)
Galesburg, IL, is the hometown of Carl Sandburg, the American poet who reveled in things and persons ordinary. Similarly, Mountain Goats main man John Darnielle has spent the last few years amassing a body of songs reminiscent of Sandburg's poetry, celebrating geography, travel and the majestic beauty of the mundane.
On Full Force Galesburg, the Mountain Goats' fifth official full-length, Darnielle has finally decided to go solo. Though past releases have featured a revolving cast of players, the new one is just Darnielle and his acoustic guitar (with occasional appearances by New Zealander Alastair Galbraith).
While travel has been a primary focus of Mountain Goats records, it's never been as focused as on this song-cycle travelogue inspired, one might deduce, by Darnielle's lengthy American tour last year.
Galesburg follows a route which starts off in New Britain, CT, snakes through the Midwest and ends on the Mexican border in Brownsville, TX. The lyric writing here is more subdued, but idiosyncratic lines like "I will burn all the calendars that counted the years down to such a worthless day" (from "Twin Human Highway Flares") pervade the record. They are, however, intricately worked into Darnielle's trademark manic-percussive strumming. The overall result is even better than his more populated work.