For this year’s Record Store Day – an annual event where artists come together to help support independent record stores – record label 4AD released a limited edition DVD of The Mountain Goats playing through the entirety of their latest album, The Life Of The World To Come. It was filmed by Rian Johnson at John Darnielle’s old school with no audience present aside from the small crew involved. 1500 copies of the DVD were released, and no stores in Norway participated in the event, but thanks to a kind and helpful fellow fan of the band, I was able to get myself a copy.
This intimate concert is performed by John Darnielle alone, using either the piano or the guitar, with Rachel Ware adding backing vocals on a few songs. The music video released for the album, “Ezekiel 7 And The Permanent Efficacy Of Grace”, is actually taken from this session, and it gives you a good idea of how the rest of the performance is like.
I wasn’t too keen on the band’s latest album, as I stated last year, but I’d heard that some people who weren’t too keen on the studio album actually enjoyed the film. I sort of did enjoy the film more than the album (though it may only be the novelty factor talking), but I didn’t enjoy it that much more. The songs sound roughly the same as on the album, and most of them meld together without any one of them really standing out. I was hoping a few of the songs would sound radically different from their studio counterparts, maybe hoping to find a rocking piano version of “Psalms 40:2” or to hear any other songs intended for either the piano or the guitar being performed on the opposite instrument, but no such luck. Throughout the performance John’s vocals sound a bit too loud to go with his gentle piano and guitar playing, whereas Rachel Ware’s backing vocals were, as on the album Heretic Pride, not loud enough, being merely a whisper in the background. Her contribution is a nice addition all the same, though.
The DVD comes with a roughly 30-minute long Q&A session taken from one of the screenings of the film, and it’s pretty enjoyable. John Darnielle comes off as a likable, humble, down-to-Earth guy, and you get to learn a few interesting tidbits. It also comes with a booklet with some information regarding each song performed, what they’re about and how they were conceived, except for “Ezekiel…” which is kept rather enigmatic. Fortunately the packaging on the DVD is better than on the album, and you can handle it with your bare hands without staining it. But unfortunately it is a bit taller and wider than that of a normal DVD cover, so it stands out a bit – worst case scenario, you may not be able to fit it into your dedicated DVD space.
In conclusion, it’s a neat product, definitely worth getting your hands on if you’re a fan. Just a shame about the album.