John Darnielle's lo-fi, acoustic passion is in full effect on Full Force Galesburg. As usual, there's little to distinguish one song from the next, and, as usual, Darnielle doesn't need to do any distinguishing, as he gets by on emotion alone. The Mountain Goats' albums are known for quickly strummed guitars and brittle, affected vocals. There are quiet moments to be found on Full Force Galesburg, such as "Weekend in Western Illinois," but for the most part, the album makes its stance with those fierce, poetic vocals and rapid guitar work of past releases. "Song for the Julian Calendar" certainly has shimmering, bright elements, and it almost seems that one is listening to chamber pop. That's the kind of tone that Darnielle is able to create; you get the feeling that you're listening to something quite lush, but you know it's been primitively recorded. There are moments where his guitar echoes Johnny Marr's early work with the Smiths and even the bass of New Order's Peter Hook. It's a driving, jangling quality that never grows tiresome over the album's 16 tracks. Whether he's fumbling around memories of watching Cassius Clay on "Original Air-Blue-Gown" or desperately repeating "it's all coming apart again" on "It's All Here in Brownsville," Darnielle's lyrics and songs always make for an interesting listen. While the music might not bring a listener to tears, it can work to sadden or uplift during a lonely moment. Full Force Galesburg is not for everyone, if simply for the lo-fi recording and depth of emotion on display. It's an album of gentle, yet passionate catharsis, and it's never really less than compelling.
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AllMusic Review by Tim DiGravina