A couple of weeks ago, the Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle published Universal Harvester, his second novel (or, if you count the novella he published about a kid in a psychiatric hospital who needs his Black Sabbath tape to survive — which I totally do — his third). It’s a deeply creepy and oddly moving story about a young man who discovers cryptic, dark things being secretly recorded onto the VHS tapes at the late-’90s Iowa video-rental place where he works. It’s great. And today, the book landed Darnielle on the New York Times Bestseller List. So this seems like as good a day as any to announce a new Mountain Goats album.
Later this spring, Darnielle’s band will release the new LP Goths. They recorded it in Nashville with producer Brandon Eggleston. There is no guitar on the album — a pretty crazy thing when you consider that for years, the Mountain Goats was nothing but Darnielle’s voice and a guitar. It includes one song, “Rain In Soho,” that the band recorded with members of the Nashville Symphony Chorus. First single “Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back To Leeds” is a sort of story-song about the frontman of goth overlords the Sisters Of Mercy. That, combined with the album and song titles, makes me think maybe the album will be all about the goth subculture, the same way that the last Mountain Goats album, the great Beat The Champ, was all about the pro wrestling subculture. The band will have more to say about the album, presumably, in a Facebook Live announcement today at 4PM Eastern. Below, listen to “Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back To Leeds” and check out the album’s tracklist.
Of the song, Darnielle writes this:
This song began its life on a 1973 Guild while I was at the beach a couple of summers back; I wrote the first verse and the chorus and then I put it away. In the darkness of my desk-drawer it gathered strength and plotted its return to the surface. I revisited it after I’d decided to not have any guitars on the next album, and finished writing it on the piano, which accounts for the mild McCartneyisms of the changes in the bridge, which are things I can’t really do on a guitar. In the lyric, I imagine one of my teenage heroes, Andrew Eldritch, returning to the town where the band worked and played when they were young. His friends give him a hard time about ending up back where he started, but not because they’re mad: it’s good to see an old friend wearing the marks of time on his hands and face like well-loved tattoos. So shall it be in these times: your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions, and Andrew Eldritch, whose music has reached spirits in every corner of the globe, will move back to Leeds.
And of the whole album, bassist Peter Hughes says this:
The theme this time around is goth, a subject closer to my heart perhaps than that of any Mountain Goats album previous. And while John writes the songs, as he always has, it feels more than ever like he’s speaking for all of us in the band, erstwhile goths (raises hand) or otherwise, for these are songs that approach an identity most often associated with youth from a perspective that is inescapably adult. Anyone old enough to have had the experience of finding oneself at sea in a cultural landscape that’s suddenly indecipherable will empathize with Pat Travers showing up to a Bauhaus show looking to jam, for example.
But underneath the outward humor, there is evident throughout a real tenderness toward, and solidarity with, our former fellow travelers—the friends whose bands never made it out of Fender’s Ballroom, the Gene Loves Jezebels of the world—the ones whose gothic paths were overtaken by the realities of life, or of its opposite. It’s something we talk about a lot, how fortunate and grateful we are to share this work, a career that’s become something more rewarding and fulfilling than I think any of us could have imagined. We all know how easily it could’ve gone the other way, and indeed for a long time did.
01 “Rain In Soho”
02 “Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back To Leeds”
03 “The Grey King And The Silver Flame Attunement”
04 “We Do It Different On The West Coast”
05 “Unicorn Tolerance”
06 “Stench Of The Unburied”
07 “Wear Black”
08 “Paid In Cocaine”
09 “Rage Of Travers”
11 “For the Portuguese Goth Metal Bands”
12 “Abandoned Flesh”