wear black all the time

The Mountain Goats released a new LP this week, and while it can’t compete in my mind with the top-notch macabre ramblings of John Darnielle’s recent books, Goths is worth a few listens. The album stretches back to the 80’s deathrock scene in SoCal, with operatic synth, bass, and disco beats in lieu of guitars (that’s right, there are no guitars!).

I think this album takes time to resonate, and it needs to be taken as a whole and not on a song by song basis. At face value, a song like “Unicorn Tolerance” is a stark departure from the emotional upheaval of songs from The Sunset Tree or Tallahassee; despite the jazzy arrangement, a high tolerance for unicorns cannot compare to the frenetic tidings of divorce on “No Children”. Hidden underneath the upbeat chorus, Darnielle laments, “the thing I’ve been trying to beat to death, the soft creature that I used to be, the better animal I used to be”. The urgency is still there - this album is still hardcore, but it’s not that hardcore comparatively speaking.

Despite my lack of a common upbringing (unfortunately I was neither a teenage goth nor Long Beach resident), the picture TMGs paint of an aging goth rocker reminiscing about his time spent sweating eyeliner off in the 90-degree dry heat, listening to KROQ, hits close to home. He used to be paid in cocaine, now he wears black to the intervention. For all of the goth subculture obsession with mortality, there is no escaping it.

There is something poignant in thinking about what it means to be a lifelong fan: of goth culture, or of any other genre of music. How do these fans move through life as they age, and to what degree does their fandom influence their life choices? We arrange ourselves into tribes, especially in the music scene, and the intersection of your personal interests and corner of the fandom becomes a chicken and egg scenario. Flaming Lips fans* and recreational drug use, Neutral Milk Hotel fans and their propensity to recommend that you listen to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, LCD Soundsystem fans and…well, probably being a dad at this point. Anyone prone to over frequent contemplation of their own mortality will be drawn to Goths, and to wearing black all the time.

*I’m not talking shit about The Flaming Lips, Wayne Coyne is a veritable rockstar and also a seemingly nice human being.


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