The Mountain Goats Goths
With each new album the prolific folk-rock outfit find new areas to explore and new ways to evolve their existing sound. In 13 years, the band has grown from John Darnielle recording single takes into a busted into a full band known for infectious folk songs with elaborate compositions. Darnielle's clever and heartfelt lyrics, full of flawed yet relatable characters have earned the band a devout fanbase and a wiki cataloging all their stories. They are also known for their interesting album concepts: 2009’s The Life of the World To Come found Darnielle basing songs off of Bible verses, and 2015’s Beat The Champ told stories of glory, shame, family, and love all through the lens of professional wrestling. On their sixteenth studio album, Goths, not only do they explore another fascinating sub-culture, but they extremely alter their instrumental setup. The band started with just John and a guitar, yet on Goths he ditches his guit-fiddle and instead craft subtle compositions consisting of bass, drums, various keys organs, brass, and woodwinds. The band has ventured into this style in the past but now they’ve fully committed. They avoid any similarities to goth-rock using it solely as a subject rather than a musical influence. This instrumental shift does not effect the band’s signature style at all, the structures, melodies, and storytelling remain consistent with the rest of the band’s catalogue. Whether it’s goth band members, venues, or fashion Darnielle channels his immense knowledge on the subject and his attention to detail to tell vivid yet vague tales of the customs and motivations of participants in the culture. His lyrics are dense with all manner of obscure references, whether it’s bible verses, shakespeare, or discontinued stereo equipment, Darnielle gives excruciating detail to make his stories so immersive. The album begins with the epic and ominous “Rain In Soho” with vocal contributions from commenting on life's great unknowns and the passage of time, referencing the influential nightclub and “birthplace of southern English goth culture” The Batcave, saying no one knows when it closed. Followed by the bouncy “Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back To Leeds” telling the story of The Sisters of Mercy frontman Andrew Eldritch moving back to his old town, telling the story of faded dreams, old friends, and coming home. “The Grey King and the Silver Flame Attunement” and “We Do It Different on the West Coast” explores the different interpretations of the culture and the extremes people take it to. “Wear Black” chronicles all the situations and reasons you would wear black, which amounts to all the time in any situation. Committing to the culture as one ages is a theme throughout the records, exploring how far you will take and what level of dedication are you willing to exhibit, and the accompanying doubts. Overall this album examines identity and community and how these is found in different ways through music, or clothing, or region. Beyond that Darnielle accomplishes what he did on Beat The Champ, shedding light on a culture that most people don’t even know exists, let alone understand the depth, diversity, and nuance within that culture. He tells the stories of forgotten, unknown, and outcast characters in beautiful ways that give a moment of beauty and glory to some who never received it in life. These are people you’ve seen maybe even known and you can picture your experience with them and apply this rich backstory to alter your perspective of them. Every time I think I can’t love this band more they push the envelope and do something surprising and amazing. Hear as we listen to “Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back To Leeds” and discuss our love of The Mountain Goats on Best Song Ever.