The Mountain Goats
Beat the Champ
Don’t be fooled by the easygoing folk-pop melodies and likable everyday-guy vocals: John Darnielle, leader of California’s long-running Mountain Goats, writes some of the sharpest, most thoughtful songs around. On Beat the Champ, he turns to professional wrestling, one of his cultural fixations (another being death metal), and as usual, treats his characters with perceptive compassion, savoring the orchestrated drama of the “sport” without a hint of condescension. While “The Legend of Chavo Guerrero” (“I need justice in my life”) highlights the uplift that wrestling’s morality plays provide for the fans, more often Darnielle depicts the daily struggles, emotional and physical, of its participants in and out of the ring. From “Choked Out” (“I can see the future, it’s a real dark place”) to “The Ballad of Bull Ramos” (“Get around fine on one leg/Lose a kidney, then go blind/Sit on my porch in Houston/Let the good times dance across my mind”), his noble hard-luck warriors are not soon forgotten.