The Mountain Goats Talk Growing Up in “Cry for Judas”

29 Aug

Transcendental Youth

John Darnielle and his band of Mountain Goats will release their 14th studio album, Transcendental Youth, on October 2. I know I mentioned this before on the Music Court, but I feel like I have a duty to mention it again. The album is sure to be awesome – like all of Darnielle releases – and it would surely be a shame if you missed out.

As a commenter on Darnielle’s tunes said recently, “nobody is better than Darnielle at writing such happy songs about utter hopelessness.” I agree and disagree. You see, this comment is true a lot of the time. Heck, if there is any hope in “No Children,” well, I haven’t found it yet. Still looking, though! But in Transcendental Youth, at least in the first song released from the album, there is a subtle hint of growth under the lyric. Darnielle paints a messy portrait of an adolescent teen struggling with growing up in the society he is surrounded by, a candid autobiographical depiction of Darnielle. And, to assist in my description of the song, here is a segment from The Mountain Goats’ website about the song – in Darnielle’s words.

“Cry for Judas,” it is about survival but that’s kind of an oversimplification, it’s also about building a vehicle from the defeated pieces of the thing you survived and piloting that vehicle through the cosmos, it’s kind of complicated but people who know what I’m talking about will kind of intuitively get the idea and the rest of you will I hope be able to get a sense of it through the song.

When people talk about surviving adolescence, they are not joking. There is innate passion, awkwardness, struggle, all inherent in the process of growing. And in the end you are you, and you survived as you. Time to pilot the vehicle. The lyric repeats the couplet (Long black night, morning frost, I’m still here, but all is lost). The important part is our protagonist is still there. It was a long black night, but despite the feeling that all is lost I can’t help but thinking that the character is just growing up. Look at the album title.

The Mountain Goats are also growing, somehow still maturing and falling into new sounds. The horns give the acoustic guitar a full sound, and then there is the bass guitar which provides an almost funky rhythm. The song itself is excellent. But, I mean, I wasn’t expecting any different.

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