Pure Milk
Pure Milk

Love Letter to a Record: Pure Milk on The Mountain Goats’ ‘All Hail West Texas’

Music Feeds’ Love Letter to a Record series asks artists to reflect on their relationship with the music they love and share stories about how it has influenced their lives. Here, Lewis Nitschinsk of Gold Coast band Pure Milk doffs his cap to The Mountain Goats’ lo-fi classic All Hail West Texas (2002).

Gold Coast indie rock quintet Pure Milk released the coming-of-age EP, Food Court Days, in October 2022. Recorded in vocalist Lewis Nitschinsk’s parents’ shed, the record has an organic looseness, an apt complement to Nitschinsk’s diary-entry lyricism.

Pure Milk’s Love Letter to The Mountain Goats’ All Hail West Texas

Lewis Nitschinsk: John Darnielle. What can I say, I owe a lot to this man and a lot to this album. I learned of this record sometime in high school. At this time of my life, I had never played a guitar or written a song. I couldn’t sing, I knew that, so I had resigned myself to being a music listener, enjoying the sweet sounds and poignantly real lyrics of others. Never branching out to see what wondrous melodies I could come up with.

All Hail West Texas changed that for me. For readers unaware of this album, it’s recorded on a Panasonic RX-FT500 boombox. Poor design choice – by the manufacturers, not John – meant the microphone is placed right next to motor for the cassette tapes, meaning in the background all recordings have a warm and vibrant whir.

That’s kind of it – John’s voice, his guitar, and a cheap inbuilt cassette microphone. And let me tell you, it’s absolutely wonderful.

The album cover hooked me in first. “Fourteen songs about seven people, two houses, a motorcycle, and a locked treatment facility for adolescent boys.” 16-year-old me must have been in love with that, the mystery of trying to figure out who is in which song. It’s like reading The Turning by Tim Winton, trying to remember characters from previous chapters and putting the timeline in order.

This album taught me two things. First, you don’t have to know how to play guitar to be able to play the guitar. All these songs are open chord, mostly majors, nothing fancy. You could learn them in a week coming from zero guitar experience. I know this because it’s what I did. I’ve been playing in a band for six years now and I still lack a lot of basic music ability. But I’ve never been bothered, and I have this record to thank.

The second thing this album taught me was how to write lyrics. Mountain Goats songs often toe the line between vague feelings and concrete plot lines. You get just enough to feel a part of the story, but also are left with a burning desire to know more. For teenage me, mostly obsessed with Midwest-emo, which typically follows a very explicit lyric structure, this was game changing. So much can be left unsaid. Let the listener figure it out; it’s their song after all.

I wish I wrote every song on this record. Every single one. It gives me the energy to keep writing songs, chasing that high of writing the perfect line, finding the perfect melody, playing the perfect G major. I do it because I know it’s out there. This album is proof.

Pure Milk: Food Court Days

Further Reading

Love Letter to a Record: Caroline & Claude on ‘CINEMA’ by The Marías

Watch Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace Cover ‘Dilaudid’ By The Mountain Goats

The Mountain Goats Performing ‘This Year’ Live With Stephen Colbert Is Incredibly Wholesome

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