"The most remarkable thing about you standing in the doorway
is that it's you, and that you're standing in the doorway."
— "Going to Georgia", from Zopilote Machine
An indie rock band based in Durham, North Carolina, and consisting in the main of John Darnielle and his guitar. From 1991 to 2002 the band was notable for its lo-fi recording style, many songs being recorded by Darnielle at home on a department-store boom box, although since Tallahassee he has made more use of proper studio equipment and a wider range of instruments, resulting in something of a Broken Base.Mountain Goats songs are particularly remarkable for Darnielle's narrative, highly literary lyrical style. Many songs form part of a series, such as the "Songs for..." and "Going to..." series, or make up part of a broader narrative, such as the 'Alpha' cycle. Albums are often built around a single theme, such as The Life of the World to Come's obvious Biblical motif.
They and Their Work Provide Examples of These Tropes:
As The Good Book Says: Even before 2009's Bible-based The Life of the World to Come, lyrics and song titles made frequent allusions and references to Scripture (along with holy texts and concepts of other religions).
The Atoner: Subverted in "Prowl Great Cain". The narrator feels all the guilt of his betrayals and sins but is not stopped by them in the least.
Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Subverted in "Oceanographer's Choice". The Alpha Couple's reconciliation is an example of their dangerous codependency and is one of the most violent songs in the series.
Berserk Button: For pretty genial values of "berserk." Still, don't ask for "Golden Boy," and don't mention Hail and Farewell, Gothenburg.
Bittersweet Ending: The Sunset Tree closes with "Pale Green Things", which examines ambivalent memories of the album's antagonist.
We Shall All Be Healed ends with "Quito" and "The Pigs That Ran Straightaway into the Water, Triumph Of". The former is about a speed freak planning out how everything's going to be better as soon as his luck changes while the latter is about victory over addiction, but both account for the many who were not as lucky.
Breakup Song: Some of the most cathartic ever written. Take "Baboon": "I'd be grateful my children aren't here to see this / Had you ever seen fit to give me children."
Cover Version: "The Sign" by Ace of Base. John legitimately loved the song, and loved to perform it, but stopped because he believed his audience thought he was covering it ironically.
Also "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon, on the officially unreleased yet illegally leaked album Hail and Farewell, Gothenburg.
Destructo Nookie: "Oceanographer's Choice." "And then we fell down / And we locked arms / We knocked the dresser over as we rolled across the floor..."
The Determinator : "Up the Wolves." "Alpha Desperation March." "Damn These Vampires." "Sax Rohmer #1"
Did Not Get the Girl: "Alpha Omega" reveals that the Alpha Couple never work out their issues and separate.
Digital Piracy Is Evil: Averted... kind of. John disapproves of early leaks on artistic grounds, but happily acknowledges that Napster et.al. brought the Mountain Goats to a much broader audience. He allows bootlegs to be posted on archive.org, but would personally prefer live shows to be kept between him and the audience.
Lonely Together: "Dinu Lipatti's Bones" demonstrates how dark this trope can be.
Long Title: "If England Were What England Seems, Then We Would Only Have Our Dreams." "Pigs That Ran Straightaway into the Water, Triumph of." "Thank You Mario, But Our Princess Is in Another Castle."
Lost Episode: Dissatisfied with the way Hail and Farewell, Gothenburg turned out, John never released it — and was less than pleased when it turned up online a few years later. More recently, the West Texas Orphans EP was cancelled and the master tapes destroyed because of non-stop demands for pirated versions of Moon Colony Bloodbath on the band's own forum. This is why we can't have nice things.
Lyrical Dissonance: "No Children" is a jaunty, upbeat song with the chorus line "I hope you die. I hope we both die."
One of Us: John is an outspoken fan of video games, trashy TV and obscure death metal.
The Oner: The video for "Ezekiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace"
Also, the entirety of the film version of "The Life Of The World To Come", which features Darnielle playing songs from the album in an empty auditorium, directed by Rian Johnson of Brick and The Brothers Bloom.
The Something Song: "Anti-Music Song." "The Black Ice Cream Song." "California Song." "Chinese Rifle Song." "Island Garden Song." "The Monkey Song." "Neon Orange Glimmer Song." "Pseudothyrum Song." "Shadow Song." "Song for an Old Friend." "Stable Boy Song." "Standard Bitter Love Song" #1-8. "Song for Cleomenes," "Song for Dana Plato," "Song for Dennis Brown," "Song for Lonely Giants," "Song for My Stepfather," "Song for the Julian Calendar," "Song for Tura Santana"...
What Could Have Been: The aforementioned completed-but-unreleased Hail and Farewell, Gothenburg and West Texas Orphans. Heretic Pride was going to be a concept album entirely about monsters. The album version of "Lovecraft in Brooklyn" was supposed to feature Aesop Rock rapping over the end; Aesop eventually released a remix.
With Friends Like These: Refered to in "Game Shows Touch Our Lives." "They say that friends don't destroy one another. What do they know about friends?"