Video: The Mountain Goats – “Until Olympius Returns”
From Songs for Pierre Chuvin, out now on Merge.
It’s hard not to feel doomed these days. Democracy, empathy, our general welfare: all of these things have been eroding away for the past few years. Longer, of course, but the erosion has ramped up lately like the rising waters of Lake Michigan eating away the shoreline.
Maybe it was inevitable. It’s probably irreversible.
This pandemic and the response to it might be the final nail in the coffin. Will our culture survive?
Our temples are record stores, independent book shops, and small restaurants. Our ceremonies are sweating with strangers in dark clubs with live music. Will any of that even exist in a couple years?
I hope so. We’ll see. Or maybe we won’t.
Do you think the fourth and fifth century pagans throughout the Roman Empire thought about stuff like that while the Christian mobs and Roman armies were systematically wiping them off the face of the earth?
On Songs for Pierre Chuvin, John Darnielle goes back in time to an era that’s hardly recognizable anymore: the 1990s. It was a time when dudes sat on the living room floor and recorded earnest songs about ancient esoterica into boomboxes. They dubbed copies of their cassettes and passed them around to their friends, who dubbed copies and passed them around to their friends, who picked out their favorite songs and compiled them onto mixtapes to impress pals and woo women. The world was physical and the exchange of these artifacts took place in dorm rooms and shitty apartments, face-to-face or delivered to mailboxes.
I first became aware of the Mountain Goats at the tail end of this era. All Hail West Texas was the last album that John Darnielle recorded on his Panasonic RX-FT500 portable cassette player. Since then Mountain Goats albums have gotten gradually more sophisticated, recording in professional studios, adding a bass player, then a drummer, eventually even a saxophone. Darnielle’s compositions have matured as well, as has his musicianship, and several recent recordings feature Darnielle on piano instead of guitar. 2017’s Goths features no guitar at all. It’s jazzy.
Continue reading The Mountain Goats – Songs for Pierre Chuvin