The Mountain Goats Wiki
The Mountain Goats Wiki
Zopilote Machine
Album Cover for the 1994 release


1994, 2005




Ajax (1994), 3 Beads of Sweat (2005)


John Darnielle, Rachel Ware, Bright Mountain Choir

Zopilote Machine is The Mountain Goats' debut studio album. It was first released in 1994, under the label Ajax, then re-released in 2005 under the label 3 Beads of Sweat.

Fan-made Zopilote Machine Cassette

Liner Notes[]


-sic ait filius iuuenalis

-at filius inscitus fuit

-stultior diem ex die creuit

-di magni, hic puer dolor est magno mihi

-zopilote machine is a 19-song mater ferricrepina magna ferocia...

cool quotes: the wood underneath would win and win till the end of time. of that there was no doubt possible only the pain of hope perennially doomed to disappointment. it was so clear. of course it was in the nature of the wood to rot with age. the polish, it was supposed, would catch the rot. but of course in the end it was the rot which imprisoned everything in its effortless embrace. it did not really have to fight. being was enough in the natural course of things it would always take the newness of the different kinds of polish and the vaunted cleansing power of the chemicals in them, and it would connvert all to glorious filth, awaiting yet more polish again and again and again. and the wood was not alone. --ayi kwei ARMAH. the beautiful ones are not yet born, chapter one.

"kid you fell in the milk..."


  1. "Alpha Incipiens" -- 1:36
  2. "Azo Tle Nelli in Tlalticpac?" -- 3:02
  3. "Alpha Sun Hat" -- 1:24
  4. "The Black Ice Cream Song" -- 2:03
  5. "Sinaloan Milk Snake Song" -- 2:14
  6. "We Have Seen the Enemy" -- 1:53
  7. "Standard Bitter Love Song #7" -- 2:22
  8. "Quetzalcoatl Eats Plums" -- 2:25
  9. "Orange Ball of Love" -- 2:12
  10. "Orange Ball of Hate" -- 2:09
  11. "Bad Priestess" -- 1:29
  12. "Going to Bristol" -- 2:02
  13. "Young Caesar 2000" -- 2:17
  14. "Going to Lebanon" -- 2:29
  15. "Grendel's Mother" -- 2:20
  16. "Song for Tura Satana" -- 2:03
  17. "Alpha in Tauris" -- 2:09
  18. "Going to Georgia" -- 2:15
  19. "Quetzalcoatl is Born" -- 2:21

"Lost" Liner Notes[]

I remember writing the beginning of the original liner notes to Zopilote Machine: I was, you guessed it, in Latin class, reading Nepos and wishing I liked him better. Bored, I began composing a few Latin sentences of my own, some of which you'll find elsewhere in this sleeve. I wanted to give clues as to what the album was about without ever actually saying it outright. I still have an aversion to spelling it out for anybody, so what can I tell you? I feel like the Armah quotation is clear enough, and it it's not, there's always John Berryman: "The original fault/was whether wickedness were soluble in Art." Beyond that, there's Hippolytus as Euripides sees him, drunk with his own unfathomable arrogance, riding his horse along the shore at high speed, going too fast to see certain death about to swallow him whole and not fast enough to outrun it. Not, mind you, that he could conceivably have taken any other course. One road open and that one not just fraught with peril but leading directly into the yawning mouth of Hell. Sic ait filius Iuuenalis: thus spake Juvenal's still-smarting son, in a voice like his father's but without the sense of any greater mission that that of saving his own skin.

On the technical level I have this to say. Some misguided souls saw fit, on the occasion of this album's original release, to describe it as "one guy in a room with a 4-track," or words to that effect. 4-track, my primitivist ass. All of these are live, one-take monaural recordings. Five of them were recorded live on the radio and the rest at home, directly into the condenser mic of the mighty Panasonic RX-FT500, to whom much credit is due. My purity at this stage of the game was a step or two beyond the pale.

The other allegation levelled against these songs was the old saw about one man baring his soul, etc. I have spent the last five years waging war against such facile, reductive, post-romantic descriptions of what it is that songwriters do, but since the war has proven futile, to hell with it: these songs are all pages ripped from my diary, which drips blood. I have been alive for over 2000 years and routinely stalk those who have made me feel vulnerable. I was born in at least seven different countries. If I am not omnipotent then I am at least superhuman. I am incapable of understanding the viewpoints of other sentient beings and will take anything ever said to me as a direct personal threat. None of these songs were written. They are all spontaneous eruptions of directly experienced personal pain, deeply felt and wholly unvanquishable. Each time I sing any one of them I further aggravate a wound which will never heal.

None of this was ever true, of course, but it will be easier to swallow for those unwilling to stomach the inverse proposition and what it suggests about every encounter we've ever had with any song that moved us. Which was, if you've made it this far, the point in the first place. I am older now and the point has changed, but I hope that the fury of its original expression in these nineteen songs still manages to make at least a few of you feel uneasy and to make a few other choose to believe the songs over anything I might have to say about them. If you number among those few, then you have made the last few years very rewarding and precious to me, and I'd like to say "thanks" with all the earnestness at my command. Here as a gesture of appreciation is "Going to Georgia" on thick black vinyl where it always belonged. My favorite was always "Alpha Incipiens," but my opinion is not the one that counts around here.

-John Darnielle

Colo, Iowa

February 1998