It’s always fun when the Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle has a new project out because he goes out of his way to do interesting things to promote it. In this case his new novel, Universal Harvester, is out February 7 from publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and instead of just going out on a regular book tour (which he’s also doing, of course), he’s also reviewing rum for the Wall Street Journal and composing a ditty for the director of the new Star Wars movie.
The WSJ article (“One Very Strong Rum, Multiple Alternate Realities”) is classic JD, incorporating references to Joan Didion, James Beard, and one’s careless, younger self. My favorite quote is: “Add a tablespoon [of rum] to pretty much any standard cake recipe and you’ve got yourself the kind of grown-up dessert that’ll allow you to imagine yourself in a Fitzgerald novel, preferably closer to the beginning than the end.”
I sometimes forget that I became a fan of John Darnielle from his writing (for Michael Goldberg’s InsiderOne/Neumu and JD’s own Last Plane to Jakarta zine/blog) before I ever heard a note of his music. But once I heard his music I immediately became obsessed, scaring off most of my friends and family with my zealotry. I’ve cooled off since then but every once in a while I still geek out.
When I saw his tweets about a new song inspired by a jokey twitter conversation with Rian Johnson, I didn’t know who that was. As much as I love Star Wars I’ve tried (and apparently succeeded) in remaining spoiler-free when it comes to news about the upcoming movies. For anybody who doesn’t know: Johnson is the director of Episode 8: The Last Jedi.
I was saying how there’s an urgent need to speak out about the many deeds of the ultimate Jedi who wastes all the other Jedi and eats their bones. Rian agreed, and told me to get to work, that the story must be told! So I wrote the song and recorded it with a little help from my kids, who you’ll hear excitedly jumping in and out of the room while I work. Enjoy!
In his characteristically verbose new album announcement, the Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle revealed a pretty exciting bonus item for those who pre-order the album:
On this last tour that I just got home from, I went into Cloud City with Brandon and recorded four more songs by myself directly to 1/2″ tape without overdubs, and from those four, two will be cut directly from the tape to a 7″. The first pre-orders of the album will come with a copy of this 7″, whose songs will probably be available digitally before long; the actual vinyl single, though, will be the end-point of a truly live all-analog chain that was never converted at any point to ones and zeroes, which as one of Those Guys makes me ridiculously happy.
For the previous album, All Eternals Deck, pre-orders came with a cassette tape of acoustic demos. That was cool and very lo-fi. This new 7″ has the potential — if mastered properly — to be the highest fidelity recording the Mountain Goats have ever released. Which is kind of funny if you think about where they started (boombox recordings released on cassette). Anyway, this is the kind of thing that makes geeks like me super excited.
The new album, Transcendental Youth, is due October 2 on Merge Records, and pre-orders begin July 23.
1. Amy aka Spent Gladiator 1
2. Lakeside View Apartments Suite
3. Cry for Judas
4. Harlem Roulette
5. White Cedar
6. Until I Am Whole
7. Night Light
8. The Diaz Brothers
9. Counterfeit Florida Plates
10. In Memory of Satan
11. Spent Gladiator 2
12. Transcendental Youth
Formerly known as the Extra Glenns, the collaboration between Franklin Bruno and the Mountain Goats‘ John Darnielle has already produced one fine album, Martial Arts Weekend (Absolutely Kosher, 2002), and judging from this new song it seems as though they’ve done it again. “Only Existing Footage” tells the story of the doomed film production: “Blocking’s pretty good but there’s a gate hair on the lens / And the script girl’s wandered off so we improvise the plot / Lousy continuity. The coats won’t match from shot to shot.” But of course, it’s about much more than that: “Annihilation’s been pouring since it found out where I drink.”
In related news, the Mountain Goats have signed to Merge after six albums for 4AD.
There’s a long profile of the Mountain Goats by Stephen Rodrick in New York Magazine that leaves me feeling a little icky. The author examines both John Darnielle as well as one of his particularly earnest young fans:
He looks more or less like the rest of the assembled Mountain Goats faithful, a cross section of earnest young poet boys, geeky music-philes, and self-styled off-the-grid types carrying messenger bags—nearly a thousand of whom have gathered here tonight to bathe in Darnielle’s light. Wesley follows his brethren inside, sips from a water bottle, and paces the lobby. He stops at the merch table and plunks down $12 on a Mountain Goats T-shirt.
I haven’t been to a Mountain Goats show in a couple years, but I remember the crowds being a little more diverse than that. But there’s a lot of personal information about Darnielle that I don’t recall being explicitly detailed before (heroin, meth). An interesting read, for sure, but it seems exploitative and manipulative to arrange the eventual meeting between them. And a little gross. Or something.
Neither the fan nor Darnielle appear to be put off by the article, since they both posted enthusiastic comments on the Mountain Goats forums.
Now that he plays live, there’s nothing wrong with it. He’s still doing the same thing. But that one aspect of it that was such an incredible mystery—and real mysteries are so rare in this world. There aren’t any, especially in music, where everything anybody ever does… I used to like to be coy about this band that I was in in high school because there was almost no information about us. We had an archive of tapes that was like four hours of material or more, but we wouldn’t answer any questions and there was this mystery. But the Internet ruined all of that. You can’t have any secrecy unless you’re Jandek. He had nothing but secrets. Now he still has some, but fewer.
Jandek will perform at in Chapel Hill on February 22.
Earlier this year in San Francisco, John Darniellerecorded four songs for Daytrotter, including the unreleased “02-75,” which he says is the first love song he wrote for his wife, “before she was my wife.” It’s lovely. “You are my best friend / And I have always known you.”
John Darnielle talks to Status Ain’t Hood: “And the thing for me with my records is that either you’re going to be listening to them, or if they’re on as background music, then you want it off. It’s really annoying. I’m keenly aware of that, and I enjoy records more that I can decide what I want. Even the best death metal records are records that you can have on at mid-volume.”
Dirty Dozen, a poronographic playlist compiled by John Darnielle: “Properly assembled, though, an end-to-end sex jams tape will keep your date laughing in the car as you drive from the restaurant to the movie theater, from the movie theater to the club and from the club to your house. After that, Sir or Madame, you’re on your own.” Via cw.