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New Music: The Mountain Goats

By Melanie Woods, April 9 2015 —

Heroes are people we can look to when things are bad. A kid’s hero can be anyone from a parent to a rich man in a bat suit. For John Darnielle, singer-songwriter of the Mountain Goats, his heroes were 1970s small-time pro wrestlers.

Beat the Champ tells the stories of Darnielle’s fictional wrestling heroes. Beyond that, the album is a deep emotional reflection.

Beat the Champ isn’t full of the bouncy camp one might expect from an album dedicated to pro wrestling. Rather, it takes a mournful tone, best expressed by the line “some things you will remember, some things stay sweet forever,” from the track “Animal Mask.”

Thematically, the album is about reflecting on and coping with memories. That’s not to say the record isn’t without flavour.

Darnielle, along with band members Peter Hughes and Jon Wurster, shifts styles faster than Chavo Guerrero can put a man in a chokehold. From the bass-heavy darkness of “Werewolf Gimmick” to the lightly falling piano in “Heel Turn 2,” the band covers a vast array of melodies and tones.

Capturing the reckless abandon of early Mountain Goats classics like “This Year,” the album’s third track, “Foreign Object” is poised to be the next song you’ll sing drunk with an arm around your best friend. With the chorus “I’m going to stab you in the eye, with a foreign object,” it’s too goddamn catchy for its own good.

Just as under the colourful masks of pro wrestlers lie real people with real stories, emotional tribulation and pain lie beneath the mask of this album. “I will reveal you,” Darnielle repeats softly on “Unmasked.” But it’s not so much the wrestlers he’s revealing in Beat the Champ, it’s himself.





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