John Darnielle is Still Clever, After All of These Years
It’s been two years since the indie folk band the Mountain Goats have released a record and, after over twenty years of being in the music industry, they are still able to create a unique and enjoyable album. Their sixteenth studio release, Goths is a twelve-track record that twists the mind of the listener with its lyric poetry and the storytelling abilities of frontman John Darnielle.
Staying true to the album title, Goths presents an exploration of both light and dark in life. The listener is introduced to a feeling of isolation and dread with the very first song, “Rain in Soho.” It is filled with morbid imagery like, “Revel in the darkness like a pair of open graves,” which helps to illustrate the macabre journey on which the listener is about to embark. What would any true goth album be without the mention of Andrew Eldritch? “Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back to Leeds” is a ballad lamenting the lack of appreciation for one of goth rock’s most beloved and talented figures. The fervor with which Darnielle sings is both honest and melodious.
Like on any Mountain Goats’ album, the listener can expect clever song titles and even cleverer instrumentals and backing vocals. With the added saxophone and doo-wop harmonies, “Paid in Cocaine” sounds remarkably happy despite its title. “Unicorn Tolerance” is similar, with its carefree sound, but underneath the optimistic instrumentals are descriptions of violence and shame. One line in particular is especially macabre: “Dig through the graveyard / rub the bones against my face / it gets real nice around the graveyard / once you’ve acquired the taste.” Other tracks like “We Do It Different on the West Coast” and “For the Portuguese Goth Metal Bands” are slower and more haunting. Both songs, in true Mountain Goats fashion, use harmonies and unusual instruments to create something that is uniquely theirs.
Goths is an album that is desirous for something that is not always joyful. It is nostalgic for both the good and the bad. It is a record that is about the “other,” but because of Darnielle’s wit, the message is far more humorous and heartfelt.