The Mountain Goats
I’m going to skirt through the givens of the Mountain Goats so I can get to what results the formula produces. Here we go: he’s recorded approximately 7000 songs on 700 albums, largely recorded on jamboxes in a rush, his songs have been fiction until the last three where he fessed up to writing about himself, he has a pronounced penchant for hormonally charged acoustic guitar runs over which he spills a mix of deep insight and repurposed cliché pronouncements in the service of The Poetry of Life, and his best song is probably “This Year” of The Sunset Tree, where all these things came to a head and provided the perfect tension in his product line required so that he could slingshot into something new.
That new was the quiet, reflective Get Lonely which found center of the Goats’ cosmology John Darnielle in darker spirits; still clever as hell but coming off broken, both in the shattered glass and bronco context and, frankly, I was a little worried about him. I met Darnielle once, briefly, and he hugged me, but I’m not saying I know him in a buddy kind of way. I know him the way you know an author you follow or a basketball coach. You talk about them in familiar terms, as if you expect them to bust in the room and say “Hey, what are you guys all talking about?”
The thing I get off him, or more precisely, get off on about him, is that I immediately internalize the arc of his songs as they fly out of the speakers, his dropping of smarty-pants literary references, his peccadillo for Black Metal, the way he keeps talking and talking until he rounds the corner to The Point. He feels like a more articulate me, talking about me in his songs. And this level of narcissism on my part is heresy, feeling everything to be ensared by tendrils of my unique being, stretching out like starving roots, desperate to tap into a wet something and suck it dry in the service of my own persistence, but fuck, y’all – who doesn’t feel that way? Like Chris Bell, I am the cosmos! We are the world! If we aren’t, then the nihilists are all right and it all is for naught, that we “just keep living.” Do we really want to take a Matthew McConaughey catch-phrase as a mantra? I don’t know about you, but I lack the abs to pull it off so I take pride in my heretical celebration of the self. Read more...