Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Mountain Goats

I think my wife Aimée may have sort of fallen in love with John Darnielle. We saw the Mountain Goats last night at Sonar here in Baltimore, and it was a great, great, joyous, life-affirming show (Aimée: "Oh my god he is so adorable!"). If you like the Mountain Goats and haven't seen them, I strongly urge you take the opportunity to do so when it arises. If you don't know the Mountain Goats, well, you should get to know them. I place Darnielle in my inner circle of great working songwriters--with Bill Callahan, Will Oldham, and, at his best, Jason Molina.

He obviously loves performing, and he and bassist Peter Hughes were having a great time and sound terrific together. Of many great moments, the delivery of this line from Tallahassee's "Game Shows Touch Our Lives" was among the most memorable:

"People say friends don't destroy one another/what do they know about friends?"

And--yay!--the encore was "No Children" (also from Tallahassee). Fantastic.

Darnielle faves the Bowerbirds opened, and they were quite good. Also definitely worth checking out.


Anonymous said...

I'm with you on Will Oldham/ Bill Callahan and maybe Jason Molina (saw Magnolia Electric Company this year at ATP - great) but I need some help with The Mountain Goats. I've got all the albums, but can't get through them. Any particular songs you'd recommend. I'll listen to them over and over until I get them!

Richard said...

Hm, interesting question. You have all the albums? I admit that it's taken many many listens for the various songs to sink in (it took me a while to get into him at all).

I think what I like about the Mountain Goats, generally, is the the storytelling in the songs, the sense of specificity, of everyday detail. If they're mysterious, it's not in a way similar to the other songwriters we're talking about.

The first two albums I had were The Coronor's Gambit and All Hail West Texas. I would maybe focus on those, maybe zeroing in on the first five songs on the latter. The first song, for example, "The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton", has the accurate details about the kids he's singing about, then the line "When you punish a person for dreaming his dream, don't expect him to thank or forgive you", which could seem an obvious "this is what the song's about ploy" somehow, instead, strikes me as perfect.

Tallahassee, which is sort of the culmination of his body of songs about the doomed, crumbling relationship, is a compendium of great seemingly tossed-off one-liners of bitterness, within the context of the precise detail. "No Children" is the most joyously hateful of these, but perhaps "Game Shows Touch Our Lives" is one to focus on here.

I hope this helps. My wife put it best, I think, after the show. He's so full of love, she said. It's true, and his songs show a loving attention to life's details that we find enormously compelling.

Lars said...

Thanks for the tips. Will follow up.