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It is hard to know how many times the mythology and mystery of Goat’s backstory can be written about, but new release ‘Medicine’ - their fifth album proper, discounting live albums and compilations - does away with any need to dwell on the past, returning with a more introspective, slightly mellower psych-folk sound that remains recognisably them.
Whilst it can be hard to discern direct meaning from the vocals themselves, there is a consistently restrained, warm feel across the whole work, and the band suggest that the overall theme of the album is about “the impermanence of life in different ways: sickness, relationships, love, death and how our time is finite”.
At times the album’s sound has nods to classic Swedish 70s psych/prog/folk acts such as Arbete & Fritid, Charlie & Esdor and Träd, Gräs & Stenar. However, there was nothing conscious about the way the album turned out, as the band “were just trying to move along as freely and open-mindedly as possible”.
Flute is foregrounded throughout, threading across several tracks from the opener ‘Impermanence And Death’. It duets beautifully with keening synth lines through the beautiful ‘You’ll Be Alright’, and leads the melody of the closing track ‘Tripping In The Graveyard’. ‘TSOD’, with its backdrop of sitar and acoustic guitar, has an indelible vocal melody that could be a lost George Harrison recording.
The introspection inherent in the music is supported by the band, saying: “We have a choice to open up as human beings, looking at ourselves honestly”. The ‘Medicine’ of the title may refer to a number of salves, or the value of relationships and love:
“For our families, friends, society, this could be done through the use of psychedelics, through meditation, through learning from other people, staying curious and never settling for a ‘solid’ identity”.
‘Vakna’ takes on this influence of archetypal Swedish psych-folk of the 70s, progressing across nearly six minutes of swaying, warping guitar solos, without ever breaking out into chaos. All round, the poised wah-soaked grooves seem machine-tooled to soundtrack triumphant crepuscule festival performances.
The final track dissolves into a coda of chants and bells that feels informed by their recent work on the pagan folk soundtrack to Shane Meadows’ The Gallows Pole.
The title of the full album version of first single, ‘I Became The Unemployment Office’, comes from an expression for someone taking advantage of you. “Say that you are a generous person and after a while people see your generosity not as a gesture of love, but instead something that they are entitled to. You have become the unemployment office”, said the band.
The joyous, echo-laden groove of penultimate track ‘Join The Resistance’ bursts into life and continues to build to a moment of release with a huge Sabbath-esque riff. This track, originally released by the Swedish band Gås only last year, was covered for no better reason than because it is “just another take on a really good song”.
Whatever your dosage, and regardless of your remedy, it is now time to take your medicine.
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