Mountain Goats

It’s so nice to write something about goats that has nothing to do with acting.

(On the acting front, I am faced with a problem I never use to have; getting off book. The last four or five shows I’ve done I’ve had a hard time, and I don’t know why. Even with Lucretia Jones, there were a few scenes that I was always about 90% on, and that was despite actual work on them. For the one acts and the shows this summer, I’ve really sucked. I would be more than happy to hear about your experiences with getting off book, even if you think I know it. As I said to the young playwright of Suicide/Joke yesterday, “Don’t think you’re restating the obvious. You’re going to be dealing with actors for the rest of your life, and we have an average IQ of about 90.”)

I know very little about the guy who goes by the name “The Mountain Goats” except that he has seldom written a song that hasn’t really moved me. It is the best of a kind of music that I think of as “College Folk Music”, and I don’t call it that because that’s what it is, I call it that in my head because I’m talking to me, and I know what I mean.

See, at Carolina, there is a theory about acting, that I will only dare to talk about once I am done with this present show I’m doing, Suicide/Joke, but which I look forward to ranting about in great detail. There is also a musical aesthetic, best summed up in the words of Clay Boyer when he said to me, “I don’t want to practice too much for fear that I will get really good.”

There is a lo-fi thrill that comes from bands like Television and Velvet Underground that I really dig, but the replications of that sound now mean less to me than the guys who make music with the same sort of energy but do it alone, with very limited information from other people. Nick Drake (aleph a shalom) was the real master of this technique, but there are hundreds of guys and gals leaning back from microphones in dark studios across America making music that my friends adore and put on mix tapes for me.

The Mountain Goats is one dude named John Darnielle, and that’s about all I know about him, except for about fifteen songs. He covered Ace of Bace’s “The Sign” much to the mutual relief of both Mac and myself, who, at the conclusion of a three hour epic we produced, would have to have sung something else at the top of our lungs had he not. Also, if you go through my CD mix collection (about twenty or so CDs that my friends and I have made for each other) you will find the rest of the Mountain Goats songs I know.

Except for the one I received over email yesterday from Steve. He’s getting married to a mail order Taiwanese transexual, but they are still having this huge wedding in a few weeks and he asked me to sing “Idylls Of The King” by the Mountain Goats. Any of you who are familiar with the song might think it’s a weird song to sing at a wedding, even Steve is worried about the lyrics, but I think it is one of the most beautiful love songs I’ve ever heard. Yes there are mentions of vultures and ghosts and locusts, but only to say how these images might be scary and horrible to most people, but in this world where I’ve found love they “all line up.”

Check this out:

This place, with its old plantations,

These roads, leading out to the sea,

This day, full of promise and potential;

More clay pidgeons.

For you and me, oh

All of them, all of them, all of them, all of them…

All lined up!

Huge crows, loitering by the curb

Our shared past, unraveling behind us like ribbons

And I dreamed of vultures, in the trees around our house

And cicadas and locusts and

The shrieking of innumerable gibbons, oh

All of them, all of them, all of them, all of them…

All lined up!

How long will we ride this wave out?

How long till someone caves under the pressure?

My dreams are haunted by armies

Armies of ghosts.

Faces too blurry to make out

Numbers far too high to measure…

Your face, like a vision straight out of Holly Hobby

Late light, drizzling through your hair

Your eyes, twin volcanoes

Bad ideas, swimming around in there, oh

All of them, all of them, all of them, all of them…

All lined up!

Man, I know Steve wants me to change the “how long” section a bit, and I’ll give it a try, but seriously, y’all can take your fucking Peter Paul And Mary bullshit, this is a real wedding song.