22 - 25 August 2014, Boughton House

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The Mountain Goats – “The Life Of The World To Come”

I meant to post about "The Life Of The World To Come", the 2009 album by The Mountain Goats, as soon as I heard it, and through serendipity, it has come back to my attention through a new concert film, in which songwriter John Darnielle plays the whole of that album. For one week only, "The Life Of The World To Come: The Movie"* is available to view for free from Pitchfork.tv.

Incredibly, "The Life Of The World To Come" is Darnielle's 17th album as The Mountain Goats, and it's a concept album of sorts, with each song named after a Bible verse, which it then interprets in various, sideways-looking, ways. So "1 Samuel 15:23" becomes a song about a crystal healer, "Deuteronomy 2:10" is about animal extinction, and "Philippians 3:20-21" might be about dying in a house fire. It is, not to be too crass about it, a housegroup session waiting to happen; albeit a housegroup session at a really cool church.

Thematically, the album is concerned with death, redemption and resurrection. "Psalms 40:2" is a full-blooded indie rocker, with antsy percussion driving home howled lyrics about the glory of grace. There are also several songs set in hospitals, with "Matthew 25:21" dealing with death from cancer, and concluding, heartbreakingly:-

And you were a presence full of light upon this earth
And I am a witness to your life and to it's worth
It's three days later when I get the call
And there's nobody around to break my fall

Darnielle has described the album as "twelve hard lessons the Bible taught me". It's also well worth reading his interview with Pitchfork that came out around the time of the album's release.

Importantly, the album is not preachy, evangelical or explicit about faith. It asks you to invest emotionally in the words of the Bible, and each song is a little riddle, with the listener requiring a little patience and even research to unpack the layers of meaning. It's a thoughtful, meaningful and mature work, and I highly recommend it.

The film version is only available for a week, so go check it out. Of course, the album is available from Amazon and all good mp3 stores.

UPDATE - Steve on the Greenbelt Facebook page also points out that the Mountain Goats are playing some UK dates in September - 8th (Brudenell Social Club, Leeds), 9th (Koko, London), 10th (End of the Road Festival, Larmer Tree, Dorset) - check out their website for more details.


* It's not really called that.

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