Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Failure of the Day: Señor las Cabras

Seeing a performer in person for the first time is really risky. When the first Harvey Danger record came out in ’98, I was in a full-blown swoon. And I still consider it to be one the finest records of the 90s, but when we went to see them play at Slim’s, they were beyond dreadful—they were insulting. They came across as smug and aloof and so utterly phoney that I was inexorably put off by them. Their next couple of records were OK, they were fine, but the passion I had initially felt for them was dead.

I was a little worried about seeing John Darnielle (aka The Mountain Goats) play live, because he looks just like someone—and maddeningly, I can’t recall exactly who—but he looks just like a person I used to know. The feeling is so strong it’s practically déjà vu. The person he reminds me of was someone who I tolerated to be courteous, but disrespected intensely. I might have actually hated him. And I still feel this way when I see his face, whoever's face it is I see when I look at John Darnielle. All of which is to say, I was worried that his face would ruin his songs. I am as shallow as a saucer.

In fact, seeing The Mountain Goats in person is like traveling to the molten core of just how much he Means It. You think you know how much he means it, listening to his records, but you don’t. You don’t have any idea how much. From my vantage point, I saw his face become deformed by passion. His mouth buckled violently to pass his songs through it. I needn’t have worried. His face is not his face when he sings. His face is the barrier through which the songs strain, and eventually, finally, break.

He didn’t do a single one of my favorite songs (The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton, Going to Georgia, or the sublime Orange Ball of Hate), and I felt overly employed and awkwardly carnivorous in the hipster crowd, but I didn’t care, didn’t care, didn’t care. It was awesome.


  • At August 26, 2006 2:36 PM, Blogger Jeff Lester said…

    Yeah, I heard "Terror Song" somewhere and it stuck with me. It was funny but also dark--it kinda reminded me of Tenacious D if they'd decided to really *bring it,* you know? So I downloaded it and played it three or four times and then forgot about it until you brought him/them up again. Now I've got the new album and will listen to it soon.

    And, of course, because I'm both narcissistic and insecure, you sure his face didn't remind you of me when I was skinny? He sorta kinda looks like that, although he also looks like 1 in every 5 people we went to school with, frankly. Like I said, though, I'm insecure enough to think you might mean me since you've pulled a "Whatever happened to that guy you and Paul and Patrick used to hang out with? That skinny guy?" on me before.

    Love ya and miss ya, by the way. Hope you're doing well....

  • At August 26, 2006 6:06 PM, Blogger Nancy said…

    What’s funny is that because JD looks totally different in photographs depending on the angle, in some of photos he does look a little like you back in the day. But those aren’t the pictures that remind me of this other person, who I think might have been someone I lived or worked with in around 1989. The other dead giveaway that it’s not you is that you are among my most beloved of pals, which is not so much the same as disrespecting to the point of hating.

    Truth be told, I’m a little lukewarm on the new Mountain Goats record so far, but I found The Sunset Tree to be damn near flawless.

    And I STILL think there was some other guy that used to hang out with you and Patrick and Paul in the dorms…


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