Context – regretting my life choices
Or something similarly over-dramatic. It’s been a long day. The kind of day where there seem to be more problems than answers, but I’m supposed to be the answer guy. Nothing terrible happened, but I’m ready for the weekend already. I’m probably overthinking the context. I’ve ruined the joke, if it was ever funny in the first place. It was supposed to be comically melodramatic in part because of the reputation of the artist, in part because that’s who I am as a person. Subtly is lost on the internet. And on myself. And on my context.
I’ve been putting this album off my listening schedule for a while now. The Mountain Goats are a band that took me by storm sometime last year. Or maybe two years ago. It really doesn’t matter to the story. Point is I was missing some friends from grad school who were super into this, and some unrelated friends started posting songs of theirs on Facebook, so I figured it was time to see what this nonsense was all about.
Turns out I’m all about it, myself. I bought The Sunset Tree (2005) after listening to John Darnielle’s episode of the WTF podcast, and quickly fell in love with John’s whimsy and storytelling ability. I also had just gotten into collecting records (because I need more excuses to clutter our house and more reasons to spend money I don’t have), and whenever I couldn’t think of what to buy I would just buy an album by The Mountain Goats at random and see what it sounded like.
Fucking fabulous, that’s what they all sound like.
I never got around to Beat the Champ, partially because I’m distrustful of new music put out by long-standing musicians, fearing this will be the album that lets me down, and partially because it’s new and therefore costs more than the $15 the other albums by The Mountain Goats cost. I’ve been looking forward to listening to Beat the Champ, but their affiliation with my record player did a decent enough job of warding off my frivolous application of background music that really demands more attention than I give it.
This album is also fucking fabulous.
I recognize that somewhere around The Sunset Tree Darnielle started increasing the production value of his music and expanding the range of instruments from acoustic guitar to acoustic guitar with drums to occasionally having other instruments on there as well. I sometimes respond negatively to change, but I’m usually on board with whatever The Mountain Goats put out.
Beat the Champ reminds me a lot of The Sunset Tree in terms of my initial reaction to it, particularly “The Legend of Chavo Guerrero”, which has a very “Dance Music” vibe about it. Mostly in that the music is way to cheerful to juxtapose against coping with abuse, but then again who am I to take away your methods? I really like these songs for that awkward contrast, reminds me of “Here Comes My Baby” by Cat Stevens. Love that jam, if a jam you can call it.
While I sometimes long for the gritty low-fi nature of All Hail West Texas, I don’t find the production upgrades all that jarring. The music still sounds like The Mountain Goats, just if John had learned to play any other instrument besides the guitar. Maybe he can and does, I don’t know. But it feels grounded in their approach to music, rather than “look at me I got new toyz aww yis!” No one needs that kind of negativity in their lives.
I can’t wait to buy this album next time I have extra money to spend at my local record store, provided they still have a copy of this. Man I hope they still have a copy of this. If they don’t I’ll assume you bought it after reading this glowing review. 7 out of 10 would recommend on Yelp.