Avoiding listening to anything else but this album has been one of the more fun/kinda silly conventions I've set up for this week.
I mean, I probably would have done this anyway--to a certain extent--because the Mountain Goats mean that much to me. Even when they put out albums that I feel disappointed with (Get Lonely, honestly), I come back to them later and get obsessed with them, realizing that I simply missed the point the first time around (I'm looking at Get Lonely here, as you might guess) (incidentally, I love the insight-disgused-as-harsh-jerk comment that Darnielle gave Pitchfork's reviewer, over here. I'm thinking that JD wasn't so fun to be around when he was processing shit for that album).
But the thing is, for a while I had the Big Three of bands: Wilco, The Mountain Goats, and The Hold Steady. These were the bands that have held me most, through most of the aughts, in that I discovered them in a big way with one album, and began to see them every single time they played wherever I lived at the time.
Wilco's last few shows and especially their last album have been, in retrospect, a disappointment overall, and the Hold Steady's last album took a big step back. But the Mountain Goats keep moving along.
So I'm trying to just listen to this album and nothing else, and with the exception of some JJGO, it's worked. Of course, you can't live with a music lover or go to bars without hearing other things. Mostly, though, this has been an exercise in close and deep listening, and I feel like I've got a handle on this album in a way that used to be the norm, before any song was a keyboard and mouse away.
As a wrap up to this section, an actual conversation from yesterday:
My girlfriend: Can you put on "The Only Answer" (Mike Doughty) for me?
Me: I can listen if you put it on, but if I'm putting it on, it has to be the Mountain Goats.
Girlfriend exits the room, shaking her head with smirking disbelief
As I was listening to "Matthew 25:21" today, I began to realize the songs similarity to The Sunset Tree's "Pale Green Things," both in the subject matter (as it seems to deal with the same stepfather's death)(and lets be clear, Darnielle made no bones about how autobiographical The Sunset Tree was) and just the sound/structure of the song. "Matthew" seems to sit somewhere in the timeline between the second and third verses of "Pale Green Things," detailing (presumably) the narrator's last visit to the dying father figure. In "Matthew," Darnielle mentions "getting the call," and in the last verse of "PGT," we hear about a call he got at 3am, "you'd died at last, at last."
Timeline aside, what an amazing song. "Tried to brace myself/but you can't brace yourself, when the time comes/you just have to roll with the blast."
Failed brakes on eighteen wheelers, planes crashing, trying not to hurt others in the process, all of the metaphors Darnielle uses are tragic, and frightening, and about a loss of control. And it makes sense, really; fans of the Sunset Tree and the Mountain Goats know about the abuse Darnielle had suffered, and that kind of abuse feels out of control, so even in the grieving process, that must have come back.
By the way, Matthew 25:12?
"But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.'" (NIV)