By titling their debut album World Music, Goat were surely making a point. A somewhat nebulous term invented to market non-Western music to Western audiences, the Swedish group — who do no face-to-face interviews, take to the stage clothed in colorful kaftans and ceremonial masks, and ostensibly hail from the tiny village of Korpilombolo, population 529 — employed it in a knowing sort of way, in order to season their swirling, mysterious psychedelia with a splash of the exotic.
Second album Commune suggests that even as Goat sit in a long history of Swedish psychedelic and progressive rock, their ears are wide open. At its root, their sound is hot-blooded rock ‘n’ roll akin to the Led Zeppelin of “Immigrant Song,” urgent of pace and thick with wah-wah and delay. This is just the base, however, for more complex mixtures. The intricate electric-guitar motifs that circle throughout “Talk to God” are plain nods to Tureag guitar groups such as Tinariwen. “Hide From The Sun” shreds away on an eastern scale, bubbling with flurries of hand drumming and massed female voices hitting devotional notes, while “Goatchild,” with its bar-band lurch and louche, Lizard King vocals, recalls the Doors at medium far-out. If that’s not enough, the occasional mystic monologue is tossed in to remind us to keep third eye blinking: See “Gloat Slaves,” which commences with some dramatic invocations of the spirit world.
It’s plain why Goat have gone down brilliantly at the festivals; their eye for spectacle and grasp of a torrid groove appears effortless. They do, however, feel somewhat packaged. For some groups, psychedelia was a means of piercing the veil, seeking a true, transcendental reality. Goat, in comparison, feel less convincing. Theirs is a fake ethnography, as authentic as the Chapman Brothers’ spoof tribal effigies of McDonald’s characters, or a native American headdress at a rock festival. Still, Goat stir their formula up enough that you can’t imagine anyone feeling patronized, exactly; Commune might be a cultural hotchpotch with no deep inner truth, but it comes on like a heady fever dream, and that’s enough.