The Mountain Goats: Goths
On 2015’s Beat the Champ, the Mountain Goats’s John Darnielle poignantly wrote about demise by way 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band’s 16th album, focuses on the far blurrier boundary separating inventive success from failure, as the 50-12 months-outdated Darnielle revisits the lifestyle, sensibilities, and music fandom that, as a teen, led him to dye his hair black and costume “like ombre hair blonde to purple a bad undertaker.”
Though it taps into goth culture’s prevalent imagery, often referencing caves, graveyards, and crows, the album doesn’t attempt to adopt the subculture’s musical aesthetic, apart from, maybe, on the lone darkish and brooding track, “Rain in Soho.” For the first time, Darnielle wrote a complete album on piano, filling in Goths’s lush preparations with woodwinds, driving basslines, and jazz drumming, 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 current an upbeat tone on an album that by no means plumbs the morbid preoccupations typically aligned with its titular group; as a substitute, it reflects on the non-public compromises and inevitable shifts in priorities that come with rising older.
The Mountain Goats’s Goths focuses on the blurry boundary separating creative success from failure.
Darnielle deftly weaves by means of recollections 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, utilizing fictional narrators, concocting unusual situations that involve his favourite goth bands, and taking the liberty to put in writing from their perspectives. The concept that we can by no means actually 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 old buddies in an unpopular hometown club, which is succumbing to dust, rust, and mold. In the meantime, “We Do It Totally different on the West Coast” captures the territoriality inherent to varied music scenes, advised from an early-1980s perspective when, in keeping with Darnielle, L.A.’s goth model was extra natural than the “batcave” accoutrements present in London, Berlin, or New York.
While the album title-checks pillars of the goth music group, it more usually celebrates the genre’s lesser-recognized or nameless working class. Though he sings that Robert Smith may be “secure at his villa in France” and Siouxsie Sioux “had enough hits to keep the payments paid” on “Abandoned Flesh,” Darnielle is often extra concerned with bands like Gene Loves Jezebel, who let inner acrimony derail their appreciable promise.