hello folks! today we’re taking a look at the Mountain Goat’s 15th full studio record, Beat the Champ. this record was released in 2015, and is heavily themed on professional wrestling and fighting. let’s check it out!

up first is a quieter, more intimate track than usually starts Mountain Goats record, Southwestern Territory. this track suggests the story of a no-namer working shows far away from home that frequently dont make it past local TV. this song’s about a wrestler, but its also definitely not, coming from John Darnielle, a famously indie musician who’s at this point been touring for decades with each album release. The Legend of Chavo Guerrero is about a real wrestler – the chords and structure of the song are very familiar but i cant place the sing it reminds me of. still works really well here, and i enjoy this song a lot. i like the strum pattern in the verses – its spotty and lets the drums punch through in the mix in neat way that they let fall away for the choruses and bridge. i also think its important the way Darnielle contextualizes his admiration in the last verse, comparing Guerrero’s relationship with his kids and longer life with his own father. Foreign Object is a catchy song about underhanded tricks. the horns here make it kinda sly, kinda sleazy. really fun song, and musically i think it is my fave on the record, as understated as it is for most of the track. Animal Mask brings it back down to a quieter vibe – the acoustic guitar lead-in on the song really sets the tone, evennas the rest of the band joins in, and Darnielle uses a more tender vocal delivery here. a song about companionship, and staying with a person. some nice, subtle country influences on the track as well. interesting to have this land between Foreign Object and the next track, Choked Out, a track straightforwardly about a man who hasnt met a line he wouldnt cross yet. i like the narrator’s voice a lot here – i like the line about firing up the bbq, with the focus on what fighting this way earns. Heel Turn 2 is quite a sad song – the character here seems to have been putting in the time, trying his best, doing what he can, but is forced into a villain role narratively to pay the bills. lotta really good lines here, but the delivery of “i dont wanna die in here” throughout the track is especially gut-punching. this song turns “arent you tired of being nice” into a whole tragic tale. Fire Editorial has an almost showtune piano part to it – it kinda feels like an exposition track in a musical. pretty neat song. Stabbed to Death Outside San Juan is about a wrestler, , getting stabbed to death. this one aint bad but its definitely lower on my list for this record. the sharp stabs from the strings between the first and second verse create a really neat mood, but other parts of the track feel a lot weaker. Werewolf Gimmick is about someone in too deep, and who revels in that fact a bit too much. really, really like this one – the relentless, what sound like double-pedal floor drums running an undercurrent on this track that rise and fall in intensity but are ever-present sound so so good. Luna is another track about a real wrestler, Luna Vachon, and her home burning down. kind of takes that moment, of watching a fire take everything from you, and stretching it out. Unmasked! is tender, and sweet, for a moment of violence. The Ballad of Bull Ramos, another real story, focuses on the later part of his life, the ending where he grows old, and has a life outside the ring. very good song. love the way the rhythm guitar and the chunky, thud of a bass strum pattern interplay with each other. Hair Match, the closer, is intimate, almost tender in what feels like was supposed to be a price paid, a moment of humiliation.

faves – The Legend of Chavo Guerrero, Foreign Object, Choked Out, Werewolf Gimmick, The Ballad of Bull Ramos
dislikes –

yeah im a huge fan of this record – its about wrestling but Darnielle focuses his lyrics on the folks that put their bodies on the line for entertainment – what drives a person in that direction, what incentives are created for thek, what type of path does that put them down or type of people so they become. a lot of these tracks answer or muse on those questions, and i think the record is a really strong piece about the folks the Mountain Goats are normally focused on, the down and out and the losers, but from a novel perspective and with a fresh light.

Beat the Champ – 8/10

next on the docket is 2017’s Goths!

once again, thanks the Annotated Mountain Goats site and the Mountain Goats wiki! this is the last record that the Annotated Goats site covered, so if you haven’t seen the hard work they did documenting this era of Mountain Goats history, you really should go check them out for context, for discussion, and for comments by Darnielle on these tracks.

support the band by checking this album out on Bandcamp!

the beginning: Zopilote Machine | previous: Transcendental Youth | next: Goths

all my reviews for The Mountain Goats