Thursday, June 28, 2007

"orange ball of peace," from ghana

one of the reasons why EK has been a little erratic in the past week is that, well, i'm starting a new job. good for me! my new job may or may not be fun.

for a while i really liked this song because it was another darnielle miniature about a classic loser--"they wanted me to work in a machine shop, but i came out on top--i'm a fireman." and yeah, it sorta made me chuckle more than once. but i realized that while the song can be that, it can also be a lot more: "orange ball of peace"; he may be a fireman, but finding solace and wonder in whatever you do is success by a much more important rule.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"the torch song," from the hound chronicles










Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"blues in dallas," from all hail west texas

this post is dedicated to james, whose toilet overflowed today.

i was about to take on "source decay," which is about distance and having your heart ripped out of your chest and the unbearable weight of nostalgia and all that stuff, but james called.

lately, some things have been occurring to me. cosmic things. i can't share them all here, but i'm pretty sure they have a lot to do with the fact that last summer i had a girlfriend with an air conditioner, and this summer i have neither, so i get to enjoy the conciliatory solace of asceticism (read: sexlessness) and am probably dehydrated to the point of shamanic visions.

there's been a lot of endgame thinking, too, which is what "blues in dallas" is about. waiting at the gates of heaven for someone to show up. i was pretty sure i knew who i'd be waiting for, but in the past few months, my list has changed. (my financial investment service of choice had to verify my identity and asked "where did you meet your spouse?", which was one of my secret questions even though i don't have a spouse. for a second i forgot who he might've been referring to. or, maybe, i was ashamed for being so dumb as to think of that person that way.)

james, your toilet overflown, i think i would reasonably kill some time for you at the gates of heaven. i mean, these things change, don't they? i remember when you went through your white-shoe all-time-vacation phase--that was annoying, james. since then, denim shirt, belly out, there's been nothing but good feeling. if i were a praying man, i might for you.

Monday, June 25, 2007

DOUBLE FEATURE: "international small arms traffic blues," from tallahassee / "golden boy," from ghana

today: like picking my teeth with a sword!

i got a call from someone who i didn't think who would call. someone made me think of this song, which is just, you know, a standard folk-blues with lots of overwrought metaphors about how unbearably dangerous and explosive their love is. weird thing was, though, we had a normal conversation. time passes, i guess, but the myth kinda hung in my mind. a photograph of a bomb. is this how these conversations go? i'm not sure. you tell me you're thinking about buying a house, i tell you i exercise more, you tell me you're going to a drawing class tomorrow, we shoehorn in a hushed 'i miss you,' i tell you dad's cat died, you tell me your mom falls down the stairs every day, we careen into something shadowed, something neither of us really want to put our hands on. both of us have learned something, and i can finally return to the line, in my mind, 'the way i feel about you baby can't explain it, you got the best of my love,' because darnielle says it in the past tense. it dawns on me that "ISATB" is a quiet song. one of the quietest. in the future, i will tell my grandkids, "i once knew a girl who wore yellow and had an extra muscle in her leg," and they'll bring me some more mashed carrots. nobody will get dashed against the rocks.



a mountain goats song for every season. i need a banner to fall under. i need a lot of phantom power. "golden boy" is...well, i have a lot of deep theories about how the song is a cynical portrait of consumerism and how we have replaced it with true spiritual enlightenment in our everyday lives, but hell, i'm wearing mesh shorts and drinking tea and writing and staring at birds. fuck all that, seriously, for a minute. "golden boy" is a song we can live under. one man, a monolith. darnielle never plays it live, i don't think, because he doesn't want to blow the whistle for the rapture too early. that's just a hunch though. so we can enjoy it here, on earth, as some sort of sign of strength. a hilarious sign of strength. a hilarious, strong song; a testament that human love has the capacity to RAIN LIKE ROCKS for something as simple as a peanut, that a guy would do more than one take of it just to channel the spirit. screw feelings, i'm going swimming.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"tallahassee," from tallahassee

(warm-up listen yields a scary, possibly personal-record-breaking 74 seconds of goosebumps)

"tallahassee" comes at the beginning of the album of the same name. whenever i hear a song from that album, i almost immediately have an itch to hear the whole thing, start to finish. it's not neuroses; these are just how stories work. at the onset, peace. no broken bottles! no marital trauma! no personal obliteration! can't hardly believe.

but then you come to know it as an album; you put on "tallahassee" and know the trouble ahead; it's poignant, almost, to hear how green and naive and unsuspecting the narrator sounds. i want to shake him. things are going to be ugly like on COPS, and you are going to come to know life as a totally different routine.

then, what with my nostalgia queasiness over the last couple days, i drift into replaying my own stories. the first song is cool! really. good beat. things get hairy after that. not bad, just hairy. but when i see the first few shots, i can't help but use history as a wax or a salve. nostalgia is a thing for the weak, but i sorta love weakness. doesn't everyone?

anyway, this pavlovian narrative thing is one of the reasons why tallahassee is sorta "the one" for me. even if i feel like i don't love every single song on it, i love feeling like i'm in a well-worn place with a beginning, middle, and end. and, the better i know it, the more i love anticipating those feelings i'm going to have--and the more i come to appreciate the feelings i don't expect.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"old college try," from tallahassee


darnielle on darnielle:

"We imagine that our hardest experiences are the ones that help us
grow: that help us get closer to being who we want to be. Whether this
is a good or healthy way of thinking about things is another question,
but I think that people are pretty convinced that in our deepest
wallows is where we locate our core. Also, there's always humor in
extreme situations, more of it in extremely dire situations like
finding yourself alone when you really, really didn't want to be alone
any more."


so, i finally watched annie hall last night, for the first time, after years of really concentratedly not watching it, for reasons i won't get into. anyway, it made me feel sorta like i expected it to; annie hall isn't a movie about a relationship so much as it is about the burden of nostalgia for one. and holy fuck--or some approximation of holy fuck--does that burden asymptotically approach unsupportable.

i probably coulda put the above quote for pretty much any of these entries. in fact, i could proably just quote that whenever i feel like saying anything about the mountain goats. darnielle has an analytical mind.

but what stuck after annie hall--i had so many feelings out on the lawn in bryant park!--is that sense of nostalgia's poison: more and more, i look back on bad situations from my past, and rather than making them seem rosier, i just learn to praise them for all their trauma. "old college try" is undoubtedly about a relationship gone wrong, and maybe trying to set it right, or at least remembering that sick mixture of a sad past and a tender present. well, the other day, i told karl that i thought a certain girl had been "my dream girl;" he pointed out, helpfully, that "nightmare girl" was more appropriate, and while i couldn't argue, arguing wouldn't've done any good to begin with--if you believe what darnielle says above, they're one and the same.

addendum, five minutes later: this is what i mean by "redemption."

Monday, June 18, 2007

"dinu lipatti's bones," from the sunset tree

under a blanket of a head cold, after a weekend where people are reminding me of things i don't remember saying, i didn't think i could pull this off. and i never, never think about "dinu lipatti's bones," one of those meek, unremarkable tracks that weighed the sunset tree down (and that appeared even more on get lonely). but today i feel like i've finally gotten something out of it. not that i didn't understand the narrative before--two people locking themselves away from the world--but now, it sounds prescient; the chorus on the bass sounds like the way glass sliding across milk looks, and while an all-falsetto darnielle song is a lot to ask from even a superfan, it's a tremulous, weird, and newly essential moment: stow me away, get me out, let me take a breath away from the world, even if "breath away from the world" means huffing glue.

Friday, June 15, 2007

"anti music song," from ghana

funny, i forgot to post yesterday. because i was actually busy playing music, not just thinking about it. completely forgot about EK. and now, faced with my promise to myself, i can only manage to digest "anti music song," the most luddite track in darnielle's catalog. and it's true that i have a wildly deep emotional and cerebral resevoir available to spill on his writing and performances, but right now, i just want someone to hit me in the head with a rock: "i saw you on tv, doing an imitation of an imitation of jimi hendrix--that's really pathetic," ba ba ba, la la la. sometimes, shockingly, i can pass on an opportunity for deep reflection. for a second, i can understand why people find him impossible to listen to.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"the best ever death metal band in denton," from all hail west texas


my sense of romanticism is way too deep seated to be challenged with something as flaccid as common sense

or even something as elegant as logic

point is, when we get married, everyone is going to have an honest cry rather than a perfunctory one

Thomas: that made me laugh.

me: it's true and you know it

Thomas: no. it's very true, but what if they're crying because they realize we have committed ourself to a lifetime of messy relationships with the same person because we aren't capable of having it any other way.

me: i hadn't thought about them crying in that way

that's not it

Thomas: i don't think it is either, but the prospect scares me.

me: i mean isn't this why we listen to the mountain goats?


i remember, it was march 2002, the first day i heard the mountain goats, on thomas's couch; all hail west texas, fresh off the racks. a song comes on about two guys, who are friends, who are definitely existing in harmony to the exclusion of the world around them. the world, of course, knowing no grace, intrudes. the world says they are fucked up. thomas became one of my best friends because we knew how to shut things out in the same way. we taught others, and spent a hellish year in a massive house, and a lot of us still talk about it like it was the worst time of our lives, but we play the long game, so history has turned it into the best. i've never learned more.

last night i played music on a stage for the first time in a couple of years. thomas and i still play together sometimes. jeff and cyrus, in the song, know that bond. there's no name for it. and there's nothing in it but love, blind love; stupid, blind, bank-account draining, futureless, masochistic, glorious love.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"elijah," from the coroner's gambit

on a very busy day, three minutes and seven seconds to have as many goosebumps as i want.

addendum, 6/15:

i can almost barely stomach this song. i have a tendency to want to cry or throw up when i hear it. i don't know whether elijah is metaphorical or not; i don't know about the baby either. this past passover, i actually set out a cup for someone who i've been wanting to come home, next to elijah's. it didn't work. but the prick of anticipation was there; my hair stood up not because i had a reckoning, but because i imagined a reckoning to be possible. and i think a lot of darnielle's songs--i've said it a million times--are about this: not the climax per se (though he has moments of revelation), but about the way a moment can raise like a blister, the way a focused second, no matter to what end, can mean everything.

Monday, June 11, 2007

"standard bitter love song #11," from the hound chronicles

james called yesterday morning, and what would've ordinarily been a minute-long exchange about whether or not i was going to come get a cup of tea from him turned into a long conversation about meanness, specifically, why we are mean to people, what does meanness achieve, etc.

the thing i like most about early mountain goats is how abstract the voice is. a lot of people get hung up about what they perceive as the confessional and specific in his music, when really, it couldn't be farther from the truth: in early mountain goats songs, everything is standardized, transferable, universal--it's microcosmic: "well i see you left me a photograph of a leopard tearing an antelope in half / what have you done, what have you done, what have you done with our love?" he throws in two more blues-standard verses, but he could've had a 45-second imagist heartbreak; i usually cut it off after the first verse, because asking me to handle more is asking a lot.

Friday, June 8, 2007

"young caesar 2000," from zopilote machine

i described this song to a friend once--"it's about caesar, or someone like caesar, and he's just coming to power, but he's having growing pains, and what people don't realize is that he's going to become this incredible force and tear the shit out of the universe. people are always too stupid to realize shit-tearing forces in the universe until it's too late."

he said, "yeah, that's sort of cute, isn't it?" and i said hell no it's not cute, it's amazing and scary and wild. darnielle's doing a breughel and icarus thing; what we aren't noticing right at this very moment is going to reveal itself as the most important detail in the entire world. and, of course, we're gonna pay for our inattention by the bucket.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

"the young thousands," from we shall all be healed

i first started talking about horror back here, when the threat was, well, a little less threatening.

i almost loath to write about "the young thousands"--my face is scrunching up! grotesque! that's how much i love it!--but last night i was paralyzed watching schlesinger's the day of the locust, the film adaptation of nathanael west's novel, which i've read about six or seven times since high school, and i realized that, no, there is no escaping writing about "the young thousands," that, either way, "the young thousands" is going to continue to run on a track in my mind for years to come because "the young thousands" is about a feeling that does not resolve.

granted, in locust, we need a resolution, and we get one, but the movie's climax is also its most overly long scene (how long do we need to see william atherton's screaming face? longer yet). this is a drug feeling, or a mental illness--a deep paranoia, the feeling that, though things are bad, they are invariably going to get worse and worse, and you're waiting for the shoe to drop, but the shoe doesn't, it just sorta hangs above you and it might not even be a shoe, you can't even tell.

i don't know exactly what darnielle's talking about, but there are 30 overdubbed versions of him to warn me. in locust, schlesinger didn't want it to be a shock so much as a protracted sickness, the knowledge that this, well, this isn't even really a climactic moment so much as a shift in tone, that if you were hoping for ecstasy and release you can quite well forget about it. like hackett's visions in locust, the young thousands are faceless, ghostly things. they just keep moving and moving and moving and never quite arrive. onus to feel the world's mind-shredding powers is on you, buddy, and though i have pity in abundance, i also have a mite of jealousy--who's to say that agony isn't richer than the pleasantry of release?

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

"maize stalk drinking blood," from full force galesburg

it's actually not that often that anyone has true control in a mountain goats song, and when they do, they usually fumble it like it was fire or a scary penis or a baby or worse. ("young caesar 2000," i'll get to you later.)

down in the mouth and dumb to say anything as weak as "this is an empty country, i am the king, and i should not be allowed to touch anything."

yesterday an important person told me that they got frustrated watching me throw my time away being miserable, which is sort of a long-standing hobby. anyway, i floated to "maize stalk drinking blood," because, well, sometimes having everything settled in its right place is not the same thing as being happy, sometimes balance is a trap, which i guess "wild sage" is about too.

of course i know better and of course knowing better is never the point, of course.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

"quetzalcoatl comes through," from protein source for the future... now!

i think i speak for humanity at large when i say that for all gods in the god pantheon, quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent of aztec mythology, is the fiercest. i stand in awe of quetzalcoatl. because there's something inscrutable and romantic about him. i remember being in mexico staring bug-eyed at huge stone bowls made for bloodletting, bone tools for piercing enemy hearts. like the mountain goats, it was all horrific and over the top, but there was a logic i couldn't parse. or a non-logic you follow. a conviction? the sound of nahuatl helps. i spent a week whispering the gods' names in nahuatl to my then-girlfriend, who liked me because i was a creep, i think.

Monday, June 4, 2007

"wild sage," from get lonely

from a pitchfork interview with john darnielle last year:

"Pitchfork: You write about Business 15-501, a road that runs through a pretty odd part of Durham, on "Wild Sage", the opening track of Get Lonely. Is that notion-- being close to home, but maybe lost and not what some people consider safe-- playing into the song?

JD: Yes."

first of all 15-501 might run through an odd part of durham, but it's a business road--in chapel hill, there's a wal-mart on it. pretty sure the trailer diner is there too, but thankfully, my memory isn't all that clear.

i'm this close to getting on the phone with eliot spitzer this morning: "eliot, throw me amongst your confused, lost, and mentally ill. i want to see if they don't know something we don't." i periodically just have to leave new york, and i sleep for 11 hours and wake up confused. i hate listening to john squeal through the opening lines, because the needling tenor gift wasn't well suited to falsetto, but he strains it anyway, and it makes him sound a little more out of place. which, this morning, i basically understand. katie once told me that there are actually more suicides in spring and summer because people realize it wasn't just winter getting them down. don't get me wrong, i'm sticking around, but i think the metaphor is desperately illustrative: sometimes, the worst thing is feeling unsafe when you know everything is ostensibly okay.

Friday, June 1, 2007

"snow crush killing song," from sweden

"things" do not come between people, per se. what comes between people is space, and what ghosts the space is what you watch for. but it's a weary watch because you can't see ghosts (this is not ghost dad or casper, this is much less marketable or hi-five-y than that).

it's why "snow crush killing song" is practically narcotized; it's why "i know you're changing, god damn you for that," is delivered with the downcast eyes of a resignation. and where's the horror? some day that ghost will make itself manifest. and you kick quietly, because it's in your nature to kick when circumstance and time wrests something good from you, but you're sorta kicking against warm air, and the kicks get slower, and eventually, you just rest on this premonition, and eventually it comes true, and you'd been plopped on your ass quivering for the day.