Seven deadly sings

One of these is a Mountain Goat. The other is not.

One of these is a Mountain Goat. The other is not.

In honor of today’s release, The Life of the World to Come,  I thought we should delve into the exhaustive catalog of songs John Darnielle has written as part of the Mountain Goats. If you’re in a bad and verbose kind of mood, perhaps you have already participated in such an undertaking. Or if you’re like me, you’re just enamored and maybe a little intimidated by Darnielle’s productive output, which is chock-full of instances of his descriptive, caustic wit.

If the latter is the case, then you probably already know that the Mountain Goats’ latest album has track titles that were all named after books of the Bible. Darnielle has explored Christian themes before. The conflicts between pleasure and guilt, faith and doubt, and salvation and despair come up in several forms throughout the Mountain Goats’ discography. But which of the songs best exemplify the part of the Bible that everyone under the sun is familiar with – the seven deadly sins? Here are my candidates, and no, they are not all related to anger.

  • Tallahassee ~ 4AD

See America Right : Gluttony

If you tried to travel with as much alcohol in your system as this person, you’d probably have other concerns than worrying that you might be getting fat.

  • We Shall All Be Healed ~ 4AD

Your Belgian Things : Lust

There’s not a whole lot of overtly sexual imagery in the Mountain Goats’ arsenal, or maybe there is but I’m too blown away by the stark, evocative quality of the lyrics for the sexy to register. In “Your Belgian Things,” you might think of a transgressive woman – either by her own or society’s design – waiting for “the men” to take away everything she’s worked for. “I saw the mess you left in the east bedroom,” Darnielle admits, just before the chorus explains how, “I can see you in my sleep, playing the points for all you’re worth/Walking gingerly across the bruised earth.” Or maybe it’s about death. But nobody ever lost money equating sex with death.

  • Tallahassee ~ 4AD

Have to Explode : Sloth

I picked this for the lyric, “You and me lying on the tile floor/Trying to keep cool.” You know a showdown of biblical magnitude is waiting to happen, but neither person in the song can summon up the strength to take the first shot.

  • Tallahassee ~ 4AD

No Children : Wrath

It doesn’t get any more angry than “No Children.” The narrator of this eloquent and utterly bitter ode to the necessity of divorce aims his fire at his friends, his city, and his razor. But he saves his most savory insults for his lover-turned-worst-enemy, who could very well be himself.

  • The Sunset Tree ~ 4AD

Love Love Love : Pride

This song has always been particularly fascinating to  me, with its literary and pop culture allusions and the calm atmosphere it exudes. However, on the surface, all of the examples that are mentioned in this song have nothing to do with any notion of love. But Darnielle mentioned in a 2005 NPR interview how most people have been taught only one concept of love. Popular wisdom explains the idea as one made of hope and rainbows that is best expressed in good actions, but in this song, love can be just as destructive and misguided as hate. But any kind of love, even in its most perverse form, has its roots in pride. Right? Whatever, this song is amazing.

  • Heretic Pride ~ 4AD

Lovecraft in Brooklyn : Envy

In another interview, Darnielle revealed that the song is based on H.P. Lovecraft’s account of his time as a NYC resident. Lovecraft started off with all the love in the world for the city, but the cost of living eventually drove his wife to move to another state for work and left Lovecraft destitute and wary of the metropolis he had sought.

  • All Hail West Texas ~ Emperor Jones

The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton : Greed

Serves those two boys right for having ambitions in the entertainment field.

The Mountain Goats will play at the Wonder Ballroom on Wednesday, November 11. Final Fantasy will also play.


3 Responses to “Seven deadly sings”

  1. 1 Mark October 7, 2009 at 6:22 PM

    I love The Mountain Goats…”Palmcorder Yajna” kills me. I’m interviewing John Darnielle for the Mercury, sadly only by e-mail. Any burning questions?

    • 2 oldvertue0103 October 7, 2009 at 7:44 PM

      Will he marry me?!?? Seriously, when I saw him at the Doug Fir a couple years ago, the person who offered me my ticket told me that he heard that John makes up most of the stories that happen in his songs. And this was just after having been floored by Sunset Tree, so that was kind of a let-down to hear. So if you want, you could ask him about the level of truthiness (surely, you can come up with a word that’s not made up) he puts into his work, or if that sort of thing even occurs to him.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. 3 solitaryartcollective October 25, 2009 at 7:06 PM

    Did you see him on the Colbert Report a week or so ago? Very nice. I’m getting back into my blog-reading groove now that I’m more settled. Yours is top-notch, as expected.

    Who knows, maybe I’ll start writing stuff again…I’m so excited to see you are writing for So proud! xoxo

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