I'm generally not a fan of going out when I have the flu. Oh but the Mountain Goats, the Mountain Goats are a band that defy all things general. Since my first Mountain Goats show in 2005 I've made it to at least one of any given series of shows that they performed in whatever town I am in. Not attending at least one of the two sold out shows they played at the Troubadour would have felt unnatural and wrong. I'm tremendously glad that I defied my body's urge for me to collapse into bed for twelve more hours of sleep, and instead threw a thick scarf around my neck and went to this show. That being said, it wasn't the best Mountain Goats show I've ever seen. In all fairness though, that honor belongs to last year's show at the El Rey where we heard "See America Right," "Going to Georgia" (!) and was my first introduction to the new touring Mountain Goats line-up that saw the addition of John Wurster on drums to the already solid line-up of Peter Hughes on bass, and the man who writes those bafflingly brilliant lyrics John Darnielle. If all of those years of air drumming to "Why Do You Have to Put a Date on Everything?" (from Superchunk's classic album Foolish) hadn't quite cemented John Wurster as my favorite modern rock drummer, that show certainly did. Oddly enough this was mostly due to his treatment of my favorite song from 2005's The Sunset Tree "Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod?" The song is slow, heartbreaking, and perfectly effective with just a guitar. With drums it achieved something else entirely. I'm not sure what, but it left an impression, and I hope to hear it again someday.
Back to Wednesday night's show at the Troubadour. They played a good number of songs from the new album Heretic Pride which I still haven't absorbed. "So Desperate" appears to be a new fan favorite. The story of a couple in a car, their only neutral meeting place, a fair amount of self hatred between the two of them, not wanting to let go of each other. In other words, the kind of story that Darnielle writes best. The band were clearly enjoying themselves throughout the evening, and the crowd was certainly feeding off of it, and getting really into it (dancing, fist pumping etc.) I found this happen to me a few times, and it's hard to not go with the energy of the crowd and the band on stage fully rocking out. Though when you pause to remember that these songs are mostly about abuse, and addiction (and other such fun dance party themes) it kind of makes your own enthusiasm seem strange and your smile quickly turn to one of discomfort. However, in an odd way this level of immersing yourself in the song seems to be an almost perfectly natural reaction. Is it strange to find yourself in a group sing along of the rousing chorus to "No Children," "And I hope you die! I hope we both die!"? Sure, but also cathartic and it gives you an alarming sense of community.
These are songs that demand some sort of visceral reaction. If nothing else, clearly these demands were met.
You can purchase Heretic Pride here.
P.S. Keep your eyes peeled for sqg eliza's review of Tuesday night's show as well!