Eleven years and a few seismic shifts in subject matter and audio aesthetics separate the Mountain Goats' first noncassette full-length, Zopilote Machine, from their new record, The Sunset Tree (4AD). The songs on the former album (recently reissued by local label 3 Beads of Sweat) were populated with characters drawn from Old English, Aztec, and invented mythologies and performed mostly solo by John Darnielle, who recorded his rudimentary, vigorous strumming on a remorselessly grinding Panasonic RX-FT500 cassette boom box. The Sunset Tree is a semiautobiographical memoir about negotiating adolescence in an abusive household, and its streamlined production features prominent drums and keyboards, as well as exquisite cello played by Erik Friedlander. The two albums are united by Darnielle's rigorous command of detail and narrative and his sturdy hooks, all of which serve him well when he's conveying the grief of the parent of a slain monster on the oldie "Grendel's Mother" or capturing a flash point of domestic violence between the narrator's mother and stepfather on the new "Dance Music." There's a good chance you'll hear both songs live: the two-piece touring version of the Mountain Goats, with Darnielle on acoustic guitar and Peter Hughes on electric bass, is inclined to dig deep into its catalog of more than 200 originals. Shearwater and Jeff Hanson open. Fri 5/13, 8:30 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $12. All ages.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Steven Dewall.