published: 28 /
Family conflict, drunkenness and unrequited love affairs are familar subject matter for indie guitar rockers the Mountain Goats. At a gig at the London Scala, Dan Cressey , however, finds them also to have a riotous sense of humour
The worrying vein of insanity that runs through the Mountain Goats sublime, obtuse and damn near perfect guitar tunes is never far from the surface. John Darnielle writes songs that can only have stemmed from the most twisted and messed up of backgrounds but still - or more likely because of - manage to be simply beautiful.
While 'The Sunset Tree', the album that this band are currently touting on their latest tour is rather calmer than previous offerings their performance tonight is far from laid back. Spitting out his twisted tales of a life gone wrong Darnielle squarely straddles the line that separates the genius from the man who stands on corners shouting to his demons clutching half-empty bottles. If he wasn't writing such great music we'd probably have called a doctor to sedate him.
A strong balance of old favourites and new classics are on show tonight, pared down from the already sparse recorded versions with just a guitar and bass to keep Darnielle's vocals company as they sing about how he's "going to make it through this year if it kills me". Not that this is all bleak. 'The Monkey Song' ("There's a monkey in the basement - how did the monkey get there?") is a crowd pleasing if slightly baffling high point. New tune 'Dance Music' is also thrashed out with aplomb - making a tale of arguments, arrest and death a riotous pleasure.
Given the subject material of these songs - drunkenness, family strife, wasted love, monkeys - this could and frankly should be a depressing night of songs of despair, albeit gorgeous ones. Actually not a man in the place if left without a smile.