“ALL HAIL THE MYSTERIOUS GAP!”
I’m writing this within the walls of a tiny one-bedroom flat in the south of England in the United Kingdom that I share with my partner and my cat.
It is unseasonably sunny and warm this April, but the streets are empty and not a lot of people are at work because out there somewhere, is a killer virus which has brought the world to a standstill. The country is on a government imposed lockdown to protect us from dying, horribly.
My partner sits diligently at her makeup-table-cum-work-desk, working from home and I have been furloughed by my job, so I’m sitting at the dining-table-cum-writing-desk endlessly writing about things on this website.
But do you want to hear a secret?
I’m Loving It.
It’s not ideal that we can’t leave the house as much and that our cat is becoming increasingly too comfortable with us always being around, oh yeah and the fact that there’s an ACTUAL KILLER VIRUS OUT THERE… but for our creative spirits that were previously being crushed under the intense weight of underpaying, but overly demanding jobs, this isolation has meant that we are free again to pursue interests that we were too worn down and tired to pursue before.
I can write again, make podcasts and videos and I am taking immense pleasure in it. My partner is drawing again. We’re working on things together and cooking and cleaning and weirdly, despite the world crumbling outside, this all feels far more hygienic than our lives before the lockdown.
I don’t want to take away from anyone else’s experience here and I completely sympathise with those who are not in as comfortable a position right now (many have completely lost their jobs or worse, loved-ones due to this situation), but there’s a part of me that wants this to continue for as long as it can so that we can create and frolic to our heart’s desire…
Why on earth am I telling you this when there’s music I should be talking about, ay?
Well, as I listen for the umpteenth time to The Mountain Goats‘ latest release, ‘Songs for Pierre Chuvin’ I am heartened by how much creativity is being shown by our artists, musicians, filmmakers, YouTubers, writers, game-makers, dancers, streamers and actors…
Entertainment suddenly has true value again beyond any monetary weight.
Entertainment is now an escape from the loneliness and panic that comes from living in a lockdown, and not just a product to be bought and sold. Suddenly, the focus has shifted from art for the sake of consumerism, to art for the sake of art. You now have the time to create something. Go and create! If anything, we need to entertain each other.
Which brings me to the creation of ‘Songs for Pierre Chuvin’ in which John Darnielle (principle songwriter and often only member of The Mountain Goats) found himself stranded at home with his old boombox which was used to create classic albums such as ‘All Hail West Texas’ and ‘Full Force Galesberg’ and decided to create an album using just his words, his voice and whatever instruments were at hand.
This is the power you have right now dear reader. Write a song, grab your phone and record it. Release it to the world and give us all your music. You can do it too. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s bad. Trust me, I’ve heard worse. Please, for everyone stuck at home right now and for those who are out driving buses, treating the sick and the wounded, or stocking our shop’s shelves. make something to make them happy. Please.
And then suddenly, there was a crack in the fabric of time and standing proudly before us was a new Mountain Goats album.
So, what about the music?
Well, what we have here are ten distinct songs about famous pagans, reportedly inspired by the book, ‘A Chronicle of the Last Pagans’ by acclaimed Hellenist Historian, Pierre Chuvin.
For fans of The Mountain Goats, this will be like reuniting with a long lost friend for you. For new listeners, you can expect ten stories, told from varying perspectives about faith, pain, love, joy, death, redemption and sadness, all passionately told in John’s unique (read: you will either love or hate this sound) voice as the tape hisses and crackles.
You will hear every tiny sound in the air that travels through and around the tiny microphone on John’s Panasonic RX-FT500 Boombox giving every song a sense of intimacy that you would normally only find on bootleg demos from most bands.
You will feel the experiences of the characters that are woven by the lyrics in your heart. You will carry their stories with you and you will sing along with John when you need catharsis or relief.
To speak of individual lyrics or songs feels like a “spoiler” to me, so I will end by saying that if you are a fan of The Mountain Goats, you will really enjoy this release, if you are a fan of The Mountain Goats, but haven’t really listened to the pre-studio boombox albums before, ‘Songs for Pierre Chuvin’ is a great place to start if you want to get into these releases. If you are a fan of fantastic lyrics and poetry, you should give this album a go.
If you don’t like The Mountain Goats, that’s fine! You are free to enjoy whatever you want. I will urge you however, to support the artists you care about during this pandemic. They need you almost as much as you need them right now.
If you read all of the above, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
You can listen to ‘Songs for Pierre Chuvin’ in its entirety below, or wait till Friday the 17th of April when it will be available on all streaming platforms. Check out The Mountain Goats’ website for merch and previous releases if this has sparked your interest.