So lately, I’ve been really into the Mountain Goats. I’d always sort of liked what I’d heard (I, like any warm blooded creature, love singing along at the end of “Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton”), but for whatever reason hadn’t ever listened much past the singles and best-known Mountain Goats tunes. But recently, after seeing them play at Sasquatch, I started tracking down more of their stuff.
Easily my favorite of the tunes I’ve stumbled across is “Lovecraft in Brooklyn”, which is as good an expression of all-consuming terror as has ever been put into music. H. P. Lovecraft found himself out of work, separated from his beloved wife, and surrounded by strange, foreign cultures the likes of which his New England upbringing had not prepared him for. His sense of helplessness, fear, and xenophobia is often credited (probably rightly) with being a significant force in developing his unique writing style.
But for all of John Darnielle’s writing about fear and self-destruction (two topics he explores frequently), the man writes some of the most life-affirming songs I’ve ever heard. At his best, though, he manages to combine the two, and conjure strange joy out of some really dark places. Probably my favorite example of this is “This Year”:
And then there are some tunes that are just pure distillations of perfect little moments, as in “Jenny”. “We were the one thing in the galaxy God didn’t have his eyes on” is one of the most beautiful images I’ve ever heard. I also like the pure, simply joy Darnielle evokes when he says “900 ccs of raw, whining power, no outstanding warrants for my arrest”. Perfect.