This publication has been more than generous to John Darnielle and the Mountain Goats. As long as I can remember, back when a Portland visit from the Mountain Goats was a half-empty intimate gathering of a select few like-minded über fans, we have gone to great lengths to use this soapbox of ours to shout the praises of Darnielle until our lungs are sore. He is, after all, probably the greatest songwriter of this generation, and if that hefty dose of praise is not enough, he's a former Portlander as well.
Darnielle lived here when the city wasn't so optimistic, when its music scene wasn't a global beacon of the What's Next, a time when most of us (present company included) still lived in California. Of course, Darnielle wasn't the great wise hope of pop music back then; he was the token hesher kid surrounded by a bevy of methamphetamine-fueled friends always on the verge of another bad decision. It was a miserable existence, one he often revisits in song—throughout 2004's We Shall All Be Healed and onstage during his now increasingly crowded Portland shows.
In fact, Darnielle's current tour with Kaki King—cruelly titled "The Last Happy Night of Your Life" tour, as if this pair of gifted songwriters knows something about us that we don't know, and to not attend is to snuff out the last grasp of happiness we might ever have—was birthed in Portland. The story goes that after the Mountain Goats' March performance at Doug Fir, Darnielle noticed that King was passing through the club days later, so he scrawled a note to her (the two had never met) on the backstage wall. He begged the Fir's staff to not erase the message, she read it, things progressed from there, and thus the greatest rock 'n' roll wall graffiti moment since Tommy Tutone's "867-5309/Jenny" was born.
The Mountain Goats' most recent album, this year's Heretic Pride, continues Darnielle's onward march as a remarkably skilled lyricist, one who can encapsulate a seemingly random cross-section of the populace—from the murder of "King Cry Cry" reggae singer Prince Far I in "Sept 15 1983," to the swelling xenophobia of H.P. Lovecraft in "Lovecraft in Brooklyn"—with a gentle ease. And if a new record every year is not enough to satiate his eager fanbase (it's not, we want more), Darnielle just released the stark Satanic Messiah EP via the Radiohead pay-what-you-want model. Except, unlike the Mountain Goats, Radiohead didn't suggest a "devotee level" price of $6.66. I paid it, since that godless price tag is the very least a fanatic like myself can contribute to the brilliance of the Mountain Goats.
The Mountain Goats and Kaki King play at the Wonder Ballroom on Tuesday, October 21.