The Mountain Goats
If there were ever two things that seemed so disparate to even possibly compare, it may be the hearts on their sleeves earnestness of Mountain Goats and the comical seriousness of pulpy action movies but, here we are in 2022, where anything now seems possible. The music that John Darnielle and company write has been synonymous with a certain kind of wide eyed, almost teenage vulnerability.
The tropes of action movies, anything from Frankenheimer to Cameron to anything that came out of Canon Studios, settles itself with a cartoonish view of bravery and bravado. These two things couldn’t seem more different. On their new album, Bleed Out, Mountain Goats take the bloody simplicity of these films and inject them into their songs and the outcome is unexpected but definitely packs a punch. Darnielle spent the winter of 2021, deep in the pandemic, finding solace in old action movies in his home in North Carolina and it seems that the tropes of these films have seeped into the music he wrote. The overarching theme of the album is capital R, Revenge. Like the films the lyrics ape, there is no great outcome here. Darnielle says about that exact topic, “In these movies and elsewhere, it’s such a dearly held trope, when in fact, I don’t think anybody really exacts much revenge in this life at all, because we all know that revenge is bullshit, right?” While he is correct, it doesn’t make the proceedings of Bleed Out any less exactingly fun and interestingly, more vulnerable than the last few albums the band has released.
Darnielle mostly trades in the type of “horror” associated with the hardships of coming of age. From the top of Bleed Out, his charmingly nasally, sing song-y tenor rings out over an acoustic guitar before the band positively explodes on the lyrics, “I’m doing this for revenge”, and it sets the tone for the album moving forward. He is such a good lyricist that even though the music featured throughout the album isn’t that much different from anything that we’ve heard in the past from Mountain Goats, it’s lyrically that just douses these songs in a pulpy pastiche. Tracks like “Guys On Every Corner”, with its David Sanborn esque sax solos, creates the perfect atmosphere that makes you feel like you are in a Roy Schider starring 70s antihero tale. “Mark On You” weirdly wouldn’t feel out of place playing over the end of a Canon released American Ninja movie credits. Its sharp half time groove perfectly creeps along underneath lines like, “Make peace with your family”, and it’s not meant in the domestic way but the “prepare for the journey you are about to set off on, young killer.”
On paper the whole thing seems silly and maybe a bit frivolous but if there is one thing that John Darnielle can do is to take any subject and infuse it with a relatable vulnerability that can make it feel pretty universal. It’s not like any of us are out there gearing up to put together a team and take revenge on anyone or anything but there is an interesting way Darnielle uses this trope and makes it a metaphor for anything that is going on in your life. The way he writes and sings in his refreshingly straightforward way, relates to you that, underneath it all, whether you’re a samurai, ninja or commando, we are all just going through the same ol bullshit.
Pre-order Bleed Out by The Mountain Goats HERE
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