Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley and Brad Kopplin
For any writer, of any form, from any time period, the intention has been and always will be to pry back the eaves of the human condition and camp out inside that dark cover - with the outside lights jabbing in like shards of white, hot icicles -- for even the briefest amount of time. It should - or at least it does when you get it right - feel like those nasty strawberries you get on your palms, arms, legs and (occasionally) cheeks when you get ejected from a bicycle. It probably will wet the corners of your eyes involuntarily. It will invigorate you immensely, to a point where both sides of the thermometer - the hot and the cold, the acid and the sweet - take on endearing qualities. Should one disintegrate there would be pangs of longing for its return - one enhances the other, the sugar or the salt on the top of a rim, bringing out the true spectacle in the experience.
The Mountain Goats main man, John Darnielle, is a writer of songs that caravan, carrying a familiar strain of living, a familiar confusion and uncertainty about how this crazy mess of a life is all going to turn out in the end in each of his characters. They involve lives and people who are no better and no worse at getting through a day than any others in song, but they are not typical protagonists. They generally follow the mantra that Darnielle establishes in song, with the line, "Good things never last/Bad things never die." They continue to experience their suffering and feel the entrance wound as if it were happening as we speak.
If those in his songs are ever to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it won't be without a considerable amount of effort and even then, what they see is more likely to be the kind of light and tunnel that the Road Runner always painted onto the side of a brick wall, getting the Wile E Coyote to splatter into. Optimism is not visceral. It needs work. Darnielle makes the gray areas red with emotion. As brains and hearts get battered and abused, he's there somehow to beautify them, to put them in pretty dresses and make them feel as if they're holding lone flowers in their hands. These - the places that Darnielle goes to regularly - are the brightest bits of darkness imaginable.