The indie/folk band the Mountain Goats released their 15th studio album, “Beat the Champ” on April 7.
The band’s leading man, John Darnielle, started the band in 1991 as a solo artist. He worked with collaborators and other musicians to record most of the Mountain Goats’ previous albums. Since 2007, Peter Hughes (bass) and Jon Wurster (drums) teamed up with Darnielle to form the group they are today.
The album, “Beat the Champ” was inspired by professional wrestlers and how Darnielle imagines the wrestlers and their families and friends feel about wrestling. However, Darnielle has stated that the album is actually about death and dealing with the ever-present possibility of death.
In order to create the album, the Mountain Goats collaborated with quite a few artists to create the sound they wanted. In a recent interview with brightestyoungthings.com, Hughes said, “There were a handful of other players who we brought in. One of them was Matt Douglas, who plays a lot of woodwinds on the record – the baritone sax, flutes, clarinets. He’s actually coming out on tour with us as a fourth member; we’ll have him doing that stuff, and playing guitars and keys, and just kind of filling things out. There were a few others, like Eric Friedlander, who’s an amazing New York cellist that we’ve worked with over the years.”
The album starts off with a sleepy piano-clad track that could easily be mistaken for elevator music. “Southwest Territory,” the opening tack of the album, is slow and seems like it would be perfectly placed in a depressing musical where the hero has just realized his life is boring. The piano paired with Darnielle’s soft voice and the delicate sound of a flute and clarinet add to the illusion that the track is meant for a musical stage rather than a concert stage.
The next song on the album takes a massive 180 degree turn. “The Legend of Chavo Guerrero” tells the story of a hero named Chavo Guerrero that the singer, more like narrator, looks up to and idolizes. The track adds a more fun atmosphere to the album. It is more fast-paced and no one is falling asleep to the tale of real-life wrestling legend Chavo Guerrero.
A more tropical track, “Foreign Object” is another song that will keep audiences alive and interested. Not only are the vocals bouncy but the saxophone that accompanies the band adds a tropical note to the album. Definitely a beach-day song, “Foreign Object” is the most laid-back but fun song on the album.
It was a risky move on the band’s part to begin an album with a very slow and boring song. To really show the pace of the album, they should have begun with a song like “The Legend of Chavo Guerrero.” Overall, “Beat the Champ” is a pretty decent album. It has a mix of sounds that range from really slow and sad songs to fast-paced and upbeat tracks. Definitely an album for any indie/folk music fan or long-time Mountain Goats fan.