Saturday, March 01, 2008

What is This Place ?

Somehow we know that we weren’t suppose to drift this far.

Because around the time you were 8 or so you did. That first time you allowed yourself to walk as far as you could go, testing personal boundaries as much as physical ones. And maybe running from the idea that, sooner or later, your going to have to devise some way to get home. By yourself. And in the middle of this strange place which is wholly familiar. But because of the journey involved it is decidedly alien in all the important ways.

The characters in The Mountain Goats‘ “Heretic Pride” are these people too.

John Darnielle has crafted an album with not only the necessary sets but also, the right lighting cues and stage props.

Every instrument here feels in synch with the character its supposed to bring to life. Jon Wurster’s drums are panicky heartbeats. Annie Clark’s guitar lines are frustrated legs trying to maneuver their way through a Sax Rohmer pulp. Erik Friedladner’s strings inform us on the emotional dimension of the whole affair.

And the recently returned Bright Morning Choir? The ethereal; something beyond what we can comprehend urging the events into motion.

John’s words are the players themselves. A lot of them are unfortunate souls but they don’t insist on being labeled that way. In a record which has a song titled so plainly about desperation, you’d think that everyone here is some how grasping at straws. But you’d only be partially right.

You see there’s that title again “Heretic’s Pride”. Pride doesn’t only imply simple confidence but the reassertion of identity, when it is plainly clear that the entire world aims to strip those traits bare.

As relaxed as the Tianchi Lake monster is in his surrounding, there’s that sadness in the realization that he doesn’t belong. That somehow his very existence is pitted against an entire world that is trying to correct itself, and leaving him out of the picture.

Said monster is sort of the mascot here for the others. Because everyone has wondered from the safest place they know. Yet, they are also clinging to their personalities even more tightly than they would in secure surroundings.

On “ Sept. 13 1983” Prince Far I, a warm and righteous human being, has found himself slowly dying after a senseless and immoral act. His own people have conspired to show him that he’s spent too much time engaging the goodness of mankind while wholly forgetting his own sense of vulnerability and the realities of the malevolence that would invade his home. Even his body betrays him, drowning him with his own blood. He dies subverting the whole irony into a hopeful affair, crafting an obituary resembling one of his own songs.

The Prince’s goodness also serves as a specter over the living, breathing and hopelessly naïve kids in “San Bernardino”. The world has been chasing to undue their heresy and return them to the cruel and dogmatic rigors that the rest of us have to endure. Each moment of happiness feels borrowed and, somehow, bound to turn on them in an instant.

They are all scared. Some have even given up hope (“Autoclave“ “Lovecraft in Brooklyn). But they know who they are, making "Heretic's Pride" a small victories record for deshevled lives.

That’s only some of it of course and we won’t spoil the whole album by picking apart the songs to an absurd degree (especially “Marduk T-Shirt Men’s Room Incident” which is being vigorously dissected on the Mountain Goats message board)

There is, however, one heretic who is decidedly not lost and he is saved for last. Almost as if to say that all of our transgression away from home have a champion out there.

The titular character in “Micheal Myers Resplendent” is exactly where he needs to be at the right time and in the right place. And he’s going to make the most of it by destroying his enemies and standing up for all the monsters and misfits out there.

Just because you don’t have a place in this world doesn't mean you can’t win now and again.