The Mountain Goats

Written by Bill Leebens

Album: Goths

Artist: The Mountain Goats

45 RPM – 3 LP Deluxe Edition

Release: Merge records, May, 2017

Goths is the SIXTEENTH (!!) full-length studio album from the Durham, North Carolina foursome, The Mountain Goats, fronted by the timeless (vampire!) John Darnielle. Throughout their previous 15 albums, The Mountain Goats have put together some of the most compelling singalong melodies ever heard, coupled with lyrics straight out of a psychiatrist’s session notes. Previous albums (all worthy of a listen, all 600 songs worth) drip in the weighted content of heartbreak, heartache, rejection of peers and parents, professional wrestling, and homemade drugs and alcohol. John Darnielle’s craft is razor-sharp and so specifically detailed that he’ll make you feel all the feels. This isn’t topical writing. These songs aren’t POP! The discography sounds like a confession and the listener will find themselves as the lead character in some of the songs. (Not all, but some. Thankfully, not all.)

Goths is no exception. This album was recorded (proudly) with no computer-tweaked vocals. No pitch correction. No guitars (they may sound like guitars, but they ain’t). The term “goth” can conjure up images – black trench coats, shiny belt buckles with silver goat heads, lace ascots, and the earring thing that connects the ear to the nose. This album finds a nostalgic warmth in those generalization, and the woods, organs, and ambient noise are a soft place for the songs’ lyrics to land. The album is deliberate, and to me the term “confessional” pops into mind once again. Goths plays like excerpts from a teenager’s journal, and we are given a glimpse of that life for 55 minutes. “We Do it Different on the West Coast” has a bouncy bass  that grooves along with the background vocals of the “oohhs” and “aahhs” and tells a story of a youngster’s pride for the city he lives in, reaffirming the fact that others just don’t get “it.”  Don’t let the track titles lead you astray. “Stench of the Unburied” is one of the most pleasant tracks (honestly), describing a joy ride with friends, listening to Siouxsie & the Banchees on KROQ and getting in trouble with The Law. This song has the greatest chorus of the whole album, and keeps the enjoyment of the joyride wrapped up like a baby in a warm blanket, or an angsty teen wearing crushed purple velvet.


“Wear Black” takes the listener through the mind of the goth youth, who has trouble fitting in, but knows he/she is still the fly-est lookin’, all the time.

“Rage of Travers” puts you in the black patent-leather boots of a singer who gets bumped from the bill and carries on with his night. The line “Nobody wants to hear the 12 bar blues, from a guy in platform shoes” is so pure and sincere, I’m surprised it has never been sung before. Goths gives us a taste of a culture we may have missed—and if we did miss it, worry not, those who were there didn’t miss us.

The fourth side of Goths starts with a subtle ballad, “Shelved”, which tells the story of a singer who won’t sell out musically. As the song unravels, it slowly but smoothly develops into a Cure-like rager of shoegazing and swaying-in-place, fueled by its own angst.

The band  has had so many articles written on them, it’s difficult to find anything new to say about them. Every album is detailed with an ultra-descriptive glimpse into real characters, as though John Steinbeck wanted to start a band and take his show on the road. The Mountain Goats are a treasure, and this album is the blood-red ruby at the center of the crown.

The deluxe vinyl edition (colored in vampire-blood red – of course) is accompanied by a third record consisting of 4 beautifully ambient instrumentals which will keep the goths playing music until dawn. Don’t let Goths go sulking into the night. This creature shouldn’t go back in its hole.  It’s another time capsule by a most prolific band, and well worth the listen.

Favorite Side:

Side B

  1. “We Do it Different on the West Coast”
  2. “Unicorn Tolerance”
  3. “Stench of the Unburied”

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