John Darnielle doesn’t seem like the type of guy you’d want to chill out with on a Sunday with the paper and a pot of coffee. His band The Mountain Goats have proved themselves over twenty years, delivering some of the most cutting, brilliant and terrifying lyrics since Morissey picked up his inky quill and penned Still Ill. Darnielle’s life has been up on show throughout those years in painstaking detail; abusive step fathers, speed addiction and so many ex girlfriends…
I fell in love with The Mountain Goats in the only way possible. I guess I mean like… the way to discover Hendrix was at Monterrey or the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show or The Sex Pistols at that little free trade hall in Manchester or even discovering Nick Drake at midnight being guided by John Peel’s voice. Sometimes a moment fits a band like a glove and often its love at first listen…
I was in the process ending a ten year relationship, my house was in the process of being taken apart and I was sitting on the carpet with a half bottle of gin when a video clip of Woke up New from their LP Get Lonely came on a late night TV. It shocked me and before I knew it they were one of those bands that I would defend to the death after having only heard one record. A band who, the more people I recommended them too and the more people who told me they couldn’t stand Darnielle’s nasal self obsessed slurring, the more defended them. I now have most of their back catalog and would still take an arrow in the chest for them…
Well… maybe in the arm… the fleshy part near the top… or a punch in the face… or maybe just the stomach perhaps.
For me what makes them so vital is watching them walk the line between the ridiculous and the painfully sad so well that its difficult to know weather Darnielle is trying to get you to grimace or to laugh or whether he cares either way. He’s perhaps the only person who can sing the near awful line “Our love is like the border between Greece and Albania” and have it hover like a beautiful dark cloud. His dark sense of humor often unashamedly pouring over into interviews. When asked by a journalist at a gig to explain the themes of their gorgeous LP Get Lonely Darnielle replied; “Explain them? I only hope your wife leaves you so I wont have to…”
Line ups have ebed and flowed but staple bassist Peter Hughes and snare man John Wurster round out The Mountain Goats often gentle, often pounding line up and after 9 records and more EP’s, they show little signs of slowing down. There is a small European tour looming (for that’s what the Goats do too well) in October, which includes a gig at London’s Southbank Center, and will allow me to see this wonderfully jolly horror show for the first time.
I strongly urge you to do the same.
I realise of course I may not have painted too cheery a picture of one of my favorite bands but, someone (much more eloquent that I) once deflected the comment “The Smiths!… so bloody miserable…” with nothing but a sigh and the words:
“…if you can’t find any humor in The Smiths, look no further, you’re the miserable one…”
Well, people, if you can’t find humor in The Mountain Goats… you’re dead.
Their 10th record The Life of the World to Come is out later in the year on 4AD.