Release Date: 5 Nov 2002
Artist: The Mountain Goats
Quality: FLAC (Level 8)
01 - Tallahassee
02 - First Few Desperate Hours
03 - Southwood Plantation Road
04 - Game Shows Touch Our Lives
05 - The House That Dripped Blood
06 - Idylls Of The King
07 - No Children
08 - See America Right
09 - Peacocks
10 - International Small Arms Traffic Blues
11 - Have To Explode
12 - Old College Try
13 - Oceanographer's Choice
14 - Alpha Rats Nest
Tallahassee is an album by The Mountain Goats. It was the band's second new album to be released in 2002, and it marked quite a few changes. First of all, after releasing records (and cassettes) on small record labels such as Shrimper, Ajax, and Emperor Jones, Tallahassee was the first Mountain Goats album to be released on a widely-known independent label, the British 4AD. It was also the first Mountain Goats album to have an official single released, for the song "See America Right."
Most importantly, however, is that this is the first record on which the Mountain Goats is more or less an actual "band." Up to this point, most recordings under the Mountain Goats name have either been solo cassette recordings by leader John Darnielle or higher-quality recordings featuring Rachel Ware on bass. On Tallahassee, Darnielle is joined by two past collaborators, multi-instrumentalists Peter Hughes and Franklin Bruno. It was co-produced, recorded, and mixed by producer Tony Doogan at Tarbox Studios in Cassadega, New York, assisted by Michael Ivins of The Flaming Lips.
Tallahassee is completely devoted to two of Darnielle's recurring characters, a married couple who is constantly on the edge of divorce. They are known to fans as "the Alpha Couple" as all previous songs about them have titles beginning with the word "Alpha" (e.g. "Alpha Incipiens," "Alpha Desperation March"). The final song on the album is titled "Alpha Rats Nest" as a nod of sorts to the other songs.
In the songs on this album, the Alpha Couple moves into a house on Southwood Plantation Road in Tallahassee, Florida. The house is falling apart, an obvious metaphor for their crumbling marriage. Sick of themselves and each other, they begin drinking themselves to death.
The album's liner notes, presumably written from the husband's point of view, adds another dimension to the story, as does the album's promotional website, written by Darnielle and designed by his wife Lalitree.
From All Music Guide:
On Tallahassee, the Mountain Goats' 4AD debut, John Darnielle strips his music of the tape hiss that surrounded his previous work like a security blanket made of static, opting for a clean sound that emphasizes the album's sometimes stinging, sometimes sublimely beautiful words and melodies -- call it spite and polish. Though the lo-fi soulfulness that gave his songs an extra, homemade charm before is missed, it wouldn't have fit the ambitious tale he sets out to tell here: the album revolves around a troubled husband and wife who move to Tallahassee to run away from themselves and, ultimately, drink themselves to death. Darnielle has written about this couple before, but Tallahassee takes their relationship -- and his songwriting -- to a new level of vulnerability and intensity. Even among albums chronicling difficult and dying relationships, such as Blood on the Tracks, Shoot Out the Lights, and, more recently, Sea Change, Tallahassee takes a unique approach. Far from being morose or wallowing in sorrow, the album celebrates both the peaks and the valleys of a turbulent relationship; it's less like an autopsy of a love affair than an affectionate, occasionally drunken and rowdy, wake for it. Being such a conceptual album, the lyrics carry much of Tallahassee's weight. Darnielle is up to the challenge, crafting lines that range from the title track's eloquently simple "What did I come down here for? You" to "No Children"'s wickedly funny "I hope that our few remaining friends give up on trying to save us/I hope we come up with a fail-safe plot to piss off the dumb few who forgave us." Lyrics like "We're throwing off sparks/What will I do when I don't have you/To hold onto in the dark?" from "Oceanographer's Choice" convey deeper and more ambivalent emotions altogether; the richness of detail in Darnielle's lyrics makes you wish you could read Tallahassee as well as listen to it -- it's like the Great American Novel condensed into an album (and the prologue that comes with the album gives a tantalizing glimpse of what this story could be in book form). The album is literary as well as literate; songs like the aforementioned "No Children," which appropriately enough sounds like a cross between a sea shanty and a drinking song, conjure up visions of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald crashing a party hosted by Tennessee Williams. Though Darnielle's lyrics are what make Tallahassee so compelling, the album is also musically impressive, ranging from prickly, dysfunctional love songs like "Southwood Plantation Road" and "International Small Arms Traffic Blues" -- a deceptively pretty song that likens the couple's love to global conflicts and covert arms dealing -- to gentle lulls like "Peacocks" to the cathartic "See America Right." Each of the album's songs, in their own way, convey a rare and honest blend of love and frustration that isn't heard nearly enough in any kind of music. "Idylls of the King," which sounds a bit like an indie rock response to "Aguas del Marco," celebrates the wife's eyes as "Twin volcanos/Bad ideas dancing around in there," while the oddly sprightly finale "Alpha Rat's Nest" raises more questions than it answers: what relationship is truly "bad" if both parties go in with their eyes open? Throughout it all, Darnielle's folky twang gives an added authenticity and urgency to his tales of war, peace, love, and hate all living underneath the same roof. Ultimately, Tallahassee is about the staying power, for better or worse, of his couple's love; likewise, the album itself has plenty of staying power, only getting better and growing richer with each listen.