Sunday, September 30, 2007

riches and wonders

I performed this song a year ago at a schoolwide talent show with a good friend of mine, and prefaced it as follows: "This song is by the world's greatest living songwriter, John Darnielle, of the Mountain Goats." There was a bewildered silence in the audience (apparently the Mountain Goats aren't widely played on MTV?), but then we launched straight into it--my friend hunched over his guitar, staring minutely at the strings, and me, curly hair expanding with the notes, barefoot in a long white skirt, singing with the microphone in one hand and the other hand held open. We harmonized on the chorus:
And I want to go home,
but I am home --

and by the end the whole school was clapping along.

All of which epitomizes perfectly the secret of this song. At first glance it's a sweet, melodious clap-along folk song; the couple in the song has a relationship out of some perfect fantasy --

We write letters to each other, invent secrets to confess to,
I learn foreign and exotic terms of endearment by which to address you,
We feed fresh fruit to one another,
We stay up all night --

--and you think, who does that? Who are these people? I want to be there, all right, I want to be them! But... well. Well, it's a song by the Alpha Cabra. And the secret nestling in the heart of this song, the canker in the flower, is right there in that harmonic nine-word little chorus -- the lines that haunted me for a year, because in the center of the most perfect happiness lies a lonely restless selfness that cannot be overcome-
I want to go home,
but I am home.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Game Shows Touch Our Lives

I saw The Mountain Goats recently. They played a lot of Tallahassee and a lot of Sunset Tree. I am not the Tallahassee expert on this blog, but I thought I would write about "Game Shows Touch Our Lives" anyway, because they played it and I like it and it's one of those Mountain Goats songs that sounds like it could be romantic if you didn't know the Mountain Goats. Or even if you just didn't listen to the song closely enough to catch the little betrayals that signal that, whether or not I'm in the mood/the mood for you, something isn't quite right.

But apparently Mountain Goats fans all love these lines, just like I love these lines:

People say friends don't destroy one another
What do they know about friends?

Because the whole room sang them like it was the last chance they would get to sing along with a song until "No Children."

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Maybe you've realized: I'm a little obsessed with Full Force Galesburg. For that very reason, I swore I would not do another Full Force Galesburg post for a while. But you know what? I was a little obsessed with "Minnesota" even before I knew that The Mountain Goats had things like 'albums.' (I was introduced to The Mountain Goats via a 'Mountain Goats Primer,' AKA a scrupulous mix CD.) So -- at least for now -- fuck 'not always posting about the same album.' It's Minnesota time.

What you need to know: I am a child of the West Coast. Every fall, I pack my polka dot handkerchief and walk across the plains to the East Coast to go to school (we don't have our own out on the frontier, of course). On the East Coast they have buildings that are more than a quarter-century old. I pretend everything is the same but it isn't. For example, there is a total dearth of gold and grizzly bears. The feeling that I have sometimes, when I think of Chinook salmon pulsing up the Sacramento River, or of the whales known to imitate them, equals exactly the sound of A.C.'s voice in this line:

But we are not as far west as you suppose we are

Of course, in the song, we have traveled from the opposite direction. All that that means is that west is a flexible idea.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Fair reader:

Hello. I realize that our promise to post about Mountain Goats songs every day is now broken. There are reasons for this (exploding computers, changes of continent, etc.) but I do not want to give you excuses. Instead I will institute a change of policy. From now on, whenever possible, we will post about Mountain Goats songs. That way it will be a surprise.