It is rumored that The Mountain Goats is actually a pseudo-mystical motorcycle cult from the badlands of South Dakota that raises money through running a chain of discount-furniture outlets with an occasional music release. I can’t comment on the legitimacy of those claims, but I do know their latest album “Beat the Champ” chronicles the lives of professional wrestlers.
This is The Mountain Goats 15th album and, as with all Mountain Goats releases, John Darnielle sings about imperfect people and describes them perfectly. The tone of the album is more upbeat than previous releases, but still has peaks and valleys giving the album enormous depth.
The band’s mostly acoustic Indie-folk-rock sound is accompanied by orchestral instrumentation, an occasional fuzzed out guitar, even a funky jazz piano. However, every track features Darnielle singing his heart out. His awkward, yet powerful vocals are at the forefront of every song.
Some of the tracks have a stream of consciousness aura about them, but everything is relevant to the wrestling theme. In the song “Foreign Object,” Darnielle happily describes an episode of what I can only assume is pure rage. He cheerfully admits a desire to first “stick,” then “poke,” then “jab,” and even “stab” his competitor in the eye with a foreign object. I can’t help but smile about the irony created by the combination of the malicious lyrics and happy-go-lucky “Margaritaville”-esque instrumentation.
For this type of album I recommend the listener put on a bright and scary looking mask or balaclava, find an old pair of shiny tights and consider eye protection before listening.
If I had a nickel every time a professional-wrestling, concept album came out I might be able to buy a gumball. This could be the only chance any of us have to fully appreciate what professional wrestlers go through.