Sunday, November 05, 2006

I hope when you think of me years down the line you can't find one good thing to say

Somehow Blogger lost this post.. it belonged to yesterday and I know it was up yesterday and I did not delete it. However, somehow it's gone now... Blogger is pissing me off.

It has been a long time since I listened to the same band for an entire week. If my ipod could suffer from burn-in the way old monitors did “The Mountain Goats” would forever be a shadow on my screen.

Last Friday Pandora reminded me that I really liked the three Mountain Goat songs that had been swimming around on “shuffle songs” for the last two years so I decided to buy one of their cds. My favorite of the 3 songs I had heard was “No Children” a bitter chant about wishing for the worst in a relationship (see title of this post). Since "No Children" was on Tallahassee my decision was made. If only all decisions were this easy and turned out so successfully.

I don’t know how some people review so many albums in such quick succession. I’ve needed a week to prepare for this post. I had to listen to each album fifteen times. I had to read about the band’s history. I had to know them. I own three albums right now, soon I will own more.


The Mountain Goats have “song series” that revisit certain characters and themes over and over again to create a loose story that often spans multiple albums. Tallahassee mostly tells the story of the Alpha Couple, two people stuck in a doomed relationship (I handed you a drink of the lovely little thing/On which our survival depends/People say friends don't destroy one another/What do they know about friends?). It is unsurprising that I was drawn to this album immediately, I love songs about people who are miserable and love that ain’t gonna make it. The Mountain Goats leader, John Darnielle, is an incredibly gifted lyricist, he writes in a stream of conscious style that really has me feeling his character's pain. On the subway this week I often felt myself pulled out of my video game or magazine by one of the songs on Tallahassee. I felt I had to listen with my entire mind, that to hear this song and attempt to do something else simultaneously was impossible.

I have a hard time picking favorite songs on Tallahassee. "No Children" is probably the most easily accessible, the words are incredibly painful but they’re presented in such a way that I often can’t help singing along (I am drowning/There is no sign of land/You are coming down with me/Hand in unlovable hand/And I hope you die/I hope we both die). "Have To Explode" is the song most likely to make me tear up. I identify with the feeling that a relationship cannot last, that someone will make a misstep and everything will be lost and that there is no way to protect each other (Someone's going to do something someone else will regret/I speak in smoke signals and you answer in code). Eventually you find yourself welcoming the pain just to be rid of waiting for it (We roll out the red carpet/When rotten luck comes down the road). "Oceanographer's Choice" is the climax on the album, after 12 songs of wallowing in the pain of this relationship and trying desperately to save it the worst has finally happened and it’s almost freeing. The opening of this song has one of the best metaphors for the end of a relationship that I’ve ever heard (Guy in a skeleton costume/Comes up to the guy in the Superman suit/Runs through him with a broadsword). The rest of the song concerns itself with slow acceptance of the end that has finally come (What will I do when I don't have you/When I finally get what I deserve?). Tallahassee is brilliant and beautiful. If you like well written lyrics and very minimal music as a backdrop it’s a must own.

All Hail West Texas

I tried to convince Amy that the Mountain Goats sometimes sound like Cake and she refused to agree with me claiming they sometimes sound like They Might Be Giants which I couldn’t see at all because their songs are so sad. All Hail West Texas is probably as silly as The Mountain Goats get. “Fall of the Star High School Running Back” and “The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton” capture this spirit most directly but both end with childhood dreams crushed which can hardly be viewed as lighthearted even if the songs sometimes feel that way. I still don’t hear They Might Be Giants but I think their spirit is there. The stand out on this album is “Color in Your Cheeks” a song that is nothing like the sad painful tunes that I love from Tallahassee. “Color in Your Cheeks” is a catchy tune about booze and while nowhere near as brilliant as many of their other songs I still look forward to hearing it play.

All Hail West Texas is probably as happy as this bad can get, if you want a catchy introduction that won’t leave you depressed it’s a good jumping in point.

Get Lonely

I bought Get Lonely on Wednesday when I felt that no band could reproduce the brilliance of Tallahassee. I would have rather bought Sweden because I already own and love "California Song" but iTunes doesn’t offer it. Get Lonely did not immediately grab me in the way Tallahassee did, it took a few listens to fall in love with. It’s a much calmer album and it easily slips into the background. Where Tallahassee often makes you accept listening as your only activity Get Lonely encourages the listener’s mind to wander. The album feels much less sad, even its painful break-up songs like Woke Up New” leave you with the impression that the singer will eventually be ok (I stood there like a businessman waiting for a train./and I got ready for the future to arrive.). There is much more hope in Get Lonely, the singer owns his pain but only temporarily, it doesn’t drag him down and he’s trying to find a way out of it.

Get Lonely is probably a less demanding album than Tallahassee, it won’t haunt you and will only make you cry if you’re already a little sad.

1 comment:

Gillian said...

I definitely saw this post on Saturday. :-)