The Mountain Goats
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 00:10
Don’t be fooled by the often upbeat tunes created by acoustic guitars, piano, horns, tambourines, and a touch of calypso drums on The Mountain Goats’ 14th album, Transcendental Youth—it’s an endless stream of sad and depressing stories.
Transcendental Youth is an absurd combination of light, 90s-style rock/pop music and tragically disturbing lyrics. It starts with “Amy aka Spent Gladiator 1,” which advises its character to “do every stupid thing that makes you feel alive” as well as “jump in front of trains all day” and “play with matches if you think you need to play with matches.”
Despite the depressing subject matter, the lyrics are clever and amusing, covering topics like madness, Satan, societal degradation, hunger, poverty, and Florida. In the sequel to the first track, “Spent Gladiator 2,” lead singer, John Darnielle, advises his character to “just stay alive” and to “show up in shining colors and stand there and get hit.”
Transcendental Youth closes with the title track. Horns start out conjuring a vision of a cheerful young man skipping down the street on a sunny day. Then the lyrics start up and our cheerful hero is nailed with a falling tree branch while birds sing happily around him.
There is a lot of variety between songs on Transcendental Youth, but they are all held together by a dreary theme and Darnielle’s voice, which sounds a bit like Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie.
Transcendental Youth is definitely worth a listen or two, but after that it will probably fall to the bottom of your playlist.