The Mountain Goats: Beat the Champ (Merge) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Mountain Goats

Beat the Champ


Apr 08, 2015 The Mountain Goats Bookmark and Share

North Carolina-based singer/songwriter John Darnielle has been busy since The Mountain Goats’ last album, Transcendental Youth, was released in 2012. In addition to raising two young sons, Darnielle found the time to write his first novel, Wolf in White Van, which was nominated for the 2014 National Book Award in fiction. As if all of The Mountain Goats’ previous output wasn’t proof enough of Darnielle’s talent as a writer, such accolades confirm it. Now, with Beat the Champ, the group’s 15th studio album, Darnielle once again asserts his deft lyricism.

In Beat the Champ, Darnielle turns his attention to one of his chosen forms of escapism as a child-professional wrestling. Over the course of 13 songs, The Mountain Goats pay homage to numerous heroes and heels of wrestling’s bygone low-budget era, including Bull Ramos (“The Ballad of Bull Ramos”), Bruiser Brody (“Stabbed to Death Outside San Juan”), and Darnielle’s self-proclaimed childhood hero, Chavo Guerrero (“The Legend of Chavo Guerrero”). Though an album entirely dedicated-at least superficially-to wrestling easily has the potential to alienate listeners uninterested in the sport, under Darnielle’s guidance, Beat the Champ is so much more. The album is a collection of odes about deep emotion, death, and pinning life’s obstacles to the mat. Listen once, and wrestling becomes an obvious metaphor for working class struggles and so much more.

Fans accustomed to Darnielle’s refusal to print lyrics will be surprised to find them on the vinyl’s gatefold. Darnielle claims the decision stems from his pride at how the songs turned out, and he’s right to feel that way. Attention to detail shines throughout Beat the Champ, even extending to the deluxe LP, which according to the group’s blog, is colored gold and green to symbolize wrestling’s championship belt and the money wrestlers made when they beat the champ.


Author rating: 6.5/10

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