I am listening to the new Mountain Goats album for the millionth time and wanting to say a few words about the claims surrounding its inspiration. Each song is onThe Life of the World to Come inspired by, though not directly connected, to a particular Bible verse. Mr. Darnielle (songwriter) has spoken publicly describing his own personal faith and how each song relates in various media outlets. What bothers me is that this is a narrative long established that doesn’t need titles from the good book to see where he’s coming from. This is not to condemn the Bible, John, the Goats new album, or even the critics formerly mentioned. I have been stirring over this for a while now and I have come to the conclusion that my argument is over an interpretation and abstraction of religion, not music.
His lyrics have always been, to me at least, stories of redemption spoken through sinful hands. Though not exclusively, this is in many ways a Christian concept that finds reconciliation by allowing suffering to speak. His newest album speaks directly to this, but like I said before, one can look at his older work and see the same themes at play. Sometimes he is bluntly using the Bible on songs like “Love, Love, Love,” when he writes “King Sol fell on his sword / when it all when wrong / and Joseph’s brother / sold him down a river / for a Psalm;” or “Against Pollution,” “This morning / I went to the Catholic Church / because something just came over me. / Forty-five minutes in the pious / praying the rosary.” I want to raise the notion that John has always been able to articulate the same concepts, album after album, without explicitly mentioning religion, but with an understanding of the everyday and mundane.
He finishes the same verse on “Love, Love…” with “And Sonny Liston rubbed some Tiger Balm into his gloves. / Some things you do for money / and some you do for love;” and juxtaposes the “Against” verse with “Decorative grating on my window/ gets a little rustier ever year / I don’t know how the metal gets rusty / when it never rains here.”
The message is that revelations occur, in spite of our moral crisis or lack of understanding. A new way is made, we count our losses, and survive in one way or another. This has been the story, for me at least, while listening to the Mountain Goats and The Life Of The World To Come.