The Mountain Goats - Steal Smoked Fish [7-inch] (Cover Artwork)

The Mountain Goats

Steal Smoked Fish [7-inch] (2012)

Transcendental Records

Accompanying the first one thousand pre-orders of the recently released Transcendental Youth was this little 7" with a couple of demos of songs that didn't make the album. As demos, these are just John Darnielle and an acoustic guitar. They are not, however, shitty recording quality. They sound downright polished compared to the Mountain Goats' earlier lo-fi output. Furthermore, these songs would have fit perfectly on the album had they been expanded to full band numbers.

On opener "Steal Smoked Fish," the listener can almost picture this being on Transcendental Youth. It's got all the incredibly quotable lines that Darnielle is known for like "God bless all my old friends /And God bless me too, why pretend? / Feast when you can / And dream when there's nothing to feast on" in between imagery of Darnielle's time spent doing drugs–and apparently stealing tins of oysters–in Portland. It's "Amy AKA Spent Gladiator 1" or "Cry for Judas" without any of the bells and whistles.

The b-side is a little less poppy like Transcendental Youth's middle tracks such as "White Cedar" and "Night Light." "In the Shadow of the Western Hills" is a more straightforward story than the pieces of a story found in "Steal Smoked Fish," though both are heaped full of references to very specific moments, places, people and things. While Darnielle isn't at all shy in his lyrics, Transcendental Youth seems largely rooted in songs about characters and other people or with some discretion about himself. If you prefer a more naked Darnielle, stripped down with just a guitar and singing about himself instead of other "people who madly, stupidly, blessedly won't stop surviving, no matter who gives up on them," then this 7" might be the perfect release for you. As for me, it's a great companion to another great Mountain Goats album.