The Mountain Goats: Goths
On 2015’s Beat the Champ, the Mountain Goats’s John Darnielle poignantly wrote about dying by means of the thematic use of his longtime love of skilled wrestling, a sport that theatrically attracts traces between heroes and villains and success and failure. Goths, the band’s 16th album, focuses on the far blurrier boundary separating artistic success from failure, as the 50-year-previous Darnielle revisits the life-style, sensibilities, and music fandom that, as a teen, led him to dye his hair black and dress “like a bad undertaker.”
Though it taps into goth culture’s prevalent imagery, often referencing caves, graveyards, and crows, the album doesn’t attempt to undertake the subculture’s musical aesthetic, aside from, perhaps, on the lone dark and brooding observe, “Rain in Soho.” For the primary time, Darnielle wrote a complete album on piano, filling in Goths’s lush preparations with woodwinds, driving basslines, and jazz drumming, how to have shiny hair a far cry from the lengthy stretches the place the Mountain Goats’s music consisted solely of Darnielle’s voice and acoustic guitar. The broader sonic palette and emphasis on more melodic vocals present an upbeat tone on an album that never plumbs the morbid preoccupations usually aligned with its titular community; as an alternative, it displays on the personal compromises and inevitable shifts in priorities that include growing older.
The Mountain Goats’s Goths focuses on the blurry boundary separating creative success from failure.
Darnielle deftly weaves via reminiscences of an impressionable interval in his life and its accompanying soundtrack whereas avoiding the pitfall of nostalgia or sentimentalism for the music of his youth. He manages this feat by approaching the past not directly, using fictional narrators, concocting strange eventualities that involve his favorite goth bands, and taking the liberty to put in writing from their perspectives. The concept that we are able to by no means truly escape our previous is vividly explored on the bouncy “Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Again to Leeds,” as Darnielle describes the Sisters of Mercy frontman reconnecting with outdated pals in an unpopular hometown club, which is succumbing to mud, rust, and mold. Meanwhile, “We Do It Totally different on the West Coast” captures the territoriality inherent to varied music scenes, informed from an early-1980s perspective when, in response to Darnielle, L.A.’s goth type was more organic than the “batcave” accoutrements found in London, Berlin, or New York.
While the album identify-checks pillars of the goth music community, it more usually celebrates the genre’s lesser-identified or nameless working class. Although he sings that Robert Smith may be “secure at his villa in France” and Siouxsie Sioux “had enough hits to keep the bills paid” on “Abandoned Flesh,” Darnielle is often extra concerned with bands like Gene Loves Jezebel, who let inner acrimony derail their appreciable promise.