The Mountain Goats have always been a band I’ve heard of, but never taken the time to dive into. I dipped my toe back in 2015 with their album “Beat the Champ” which chronicled amateur wrestling (to the best of my understanding and come on, that sounds like a pretty awesome concept). I didn’t take the time to really get to know that album though but I’m sure I will get around to it.
Lately, I’ve been listening to their latest release, “Goths”, a collection of songs inspired by growing up as an outsider and listening to bands like The Cure. It is giving me some difficulty trying to describe this album in a concise way, but I think it would be great as something to put on in the background. The chilled-out, mellow instrumentation doesn’t ask a lot from you and if there is a lull in what you are focusing on and you pay attention to the lyrics you’ll always find something poignant or humorous. Without a doubt, the storytelling is the real strength of “Goths”.
Highlights for me include “Andrew Eldritch is Moving Back to Leeds”, “The Grey King and the Silver Flame Attunement”, “Shelved”, and “Abandoned Flesh”. I especially love the lyrics for Andrew Eldritch that conjure up imagery of crappy hometowns that suck people into this vortex that is impossible to escape from. Even those few who do move out are inevitably pulled back in and there is certainly no fanfare awaiting their return.
The instruments complement the songs well, especially the jazzy interludes in “Paid in Cocaine” and the album closer “Abandoned Flesh”. My favorite moment from the album has got to be the line “I’m hardcore but I’m not that hardcore” from “Grey King” both due to what a funny lyric it is and the rising horns that play throughout.
There are some aspects of the album I dislike. Despite the great lyricism and pleasant instrumentals, I don’t find myself remembering a lot of the songs or feeling the urge to come back to them. After the fourth track, the album takes a bit of a dip for me and I have some trouble with the opener “Rain in Soho” as well. The nasally tone to John Darnielle’s voice on this song is a turn off, but thankfully this is the only instance where I outright dislike it.
As I said before the strength is in the stories, and I think you have to be invested in the stories to maintain your interest through the length of the album. While the instrumentals are nice, I feel they could have been more dynamic and some changes in the melody would have been welcome.
Despite this, “Goths’ is still a good album, just not something I’m itching to come back to. Who knows, things may click more for me in the future.