The Mountain Goats, “Beat the Champ”

BEATTHECHAMP_LP_11298_TP.inddThe Mountain Goats
Beat the Champ
MERGE
7/10 

“I don’t want to die in here,” John Darnielle begs in the midst of The Mountain Goats’ new concept album Beat the Champ. It’s a record that comes at the heels of Darnielle’s critically acclaimed novel, and its lofty ambitions do not disappoint. The LP seams together piano ballads (“Southwestern Territory”), sung-spoken stories (“Stabbed To Death Outside San Juan”), and the band’s more traditional rollicking folk melodies with themes of struggle, resentment, and perseverance. While the album holds tight to the strangely whimsical narrative of professional wrestling, phrases like “some things stay sweet forever” offer a worldly hope of innocence, which is immediately crushed by a resonating “throw my better self overboard / Shoot at him when he comes up for air.” Throughout Champ, Darnielle reveals truths that pierce through the veil of wrestling, and with them, he reaches listeners—touching on both mind and soul with a greater understanding of humanity.

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