For more than two decades, ever since it was just John Darnielle and a boom box, the Mountain Goats have been cranking out new music at crazy speed. But now it’s been more than two years since the band released Transcendental Youth, their last album, which marks the longest break in the band’s existence. Darnielle has, of course, been busy. Last year, he published his novel Wolf In White Van, which was nominated for a National Book Award, and which was absolutely spectacular, and not just when graded on that musician-writing-a-book curve. But now the Mountain Goats are back in business. They’ve just announced the impending release of Beat The Champ, a full album devoted to the glorious fake sport of professional wrestling. (We heard a taste of this when he debuted the song “Animal Mask” live last year.)
Darnielle was a huge wrestling fan as a kid, something he’s often spoken about in interviews. First single “The Legend Of Chavo Guerrero” is a fond chronicle of the young Darnielle’s favorite wrestler. Chavo Guerrero, a big star in regional Southern California wrestling promotions, was the son of the lucha libre legend Gory Guerrero and the older brother of Eddie, who became a massive star in the WWE before his heartbreaking and sudden 2005 death. Chavo’s son Chavo Guerrero, Jr. is a well-known veteran pro-wrestling journeyman in his own right, and he’s currently doing great work on the Lucha Underground TV show. If you know anything about me, you know that the very idea of a pro-wrestling-themed Mountain Goats album has basically reduced me to a puddle of ecstatic goo. Listen to the (great) song and read some words about the album from Darnielle below.
Beat the Champ is about professional wrestling, which was an avenue of escape for me when I was a kid. Wrestling was low-budget working class entertainment back then, strictly UHF material. It was cheap theater. You had to bring your imagination to the proceedings and you got paid back double. I wrote these songs to re-immerse myself in the blood and fire of the visions that spoke to me as a child, and to see what more there might be in them now that I’m grown.
Beat The Champ is out 4/7 on Merge. The deluxe LP will come with the bonus 12″ “Blood Capsules” b/w “Dub Capsules.”