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The Mountain Goats: Danger in a Dark World

It's hard to find a band more literate than The Mountain Goats, so it's appropriate that "Sax Rohmer #1," one of the best songs on the new Heretic Pride, is named for a writer. But Sax Rohmer — the mind behind the archetypal villain of "yellow peril," Fu Manchu — provides inspiration rather than the subject for this characteristically eloquent tune.

Singer-songwriter John Darnielle composes some of the most vivid and complex lyrics in rock music, and in "Sax Rohmer #1," he lets loose a barrage of dark and sinister imagery that could have been lifted from a Fu Manchu novel, from "piles of broken bricks, sign posts on the path" to "hopeless urchins" and "spies from imperial China." He lays this narrative over a diligent but unremarkable guitar melody, intentionally (and wisely) letting the story dominate. But then, slipping into a catchy and strangely upbeat chorus, the song becomes less about the dangers of Rohmer's dark world, and more about finding the way home in spite of them.

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Afton Woodward
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