It is not so easy to hit both “this sounds like” and “nothiing else before or since.” You can sing songs about Geddy Le and IKEA and wink wink your way into the hearts of hundreds. There are the songs that are a time for you and sometimes they are the song that told you as a kid to cut your hair and there is the one that told you as an older kid that sure, go ahead and steal that album. On band cannot brighten every corner and one man cannot lighten every hoarder, the singer might sing. Spiral stairs where you lease expect them. Everywhere, everywhere, there and there.
It is the song of bouncing to the beat you know is true. It is the sound of cool as it schoooools over your mind’s fingertips, the stitter sitter stutter tutter of beats made words and words made bone and words bourne. It is the end of product, the end product, the mind blown. It is the right thing at the right time. It is right.
And then the power went out on the laptop and then the lightning bugs made me wish they were spelled lightening bugs and then the feel of summer—all of the good, none of the humidawfulseat of the 90 degree 90 percent days—it all came back.
Grab a High Life and hold on to your whole life. Hold on to whatever you can, really. Your eyes are burning but I’m not scared, he says, and supposes you can’t fear when you’re the one leaving, right? Never forget the day when it all came back.
How do you become his star? What can you make of all of the words and the background that just tells you so much? I want to drive in a dusty road pickup and wear hats and be surrounded by all of the important people. They all came back.
Basset boredom, long ears pinned back, voice whining, constant lament able to melt everyone. Houndy smell, feet akimbo, absolute happiness simply because you came home. I insist to you that these animals are regal, have charm and vitality and above all, a capacity to snuggle seldom seen. And yet you say, “Well, I’m more of a cat person.”
When you think about it too hard, you realize that most of the people you know spend just as much time worried about everything as you do. Except, actually, when you think too hard about it, you have no idea what people are doing. Maybe everyone else really does smile most of the time and maybe they don’t actually end up at home wondering if they are ever going to amount to anything. When you have a creative impulse it can seem strange to just spend your life on cleaning the car out or coaching baseball. What did you create today? Is it something beyond the spreadsheet for your roster of clients, something more than the lights on a screen that a few people surfed through? If I had children, I wonder if I would quit thinking about whether or not I will have an MFA diploma on my wall. I wonder if diapers would make me stop thinking about Copper Canyon Press publishing my first collection, Yellow Taxis Big and Small. I wonder why anyone does anything that they do.
“If you really want to conjure up a ghost/Cultivate a space for the things that hurt the most/Rake the sands until they surface/blind their tiny eyes.”
—The Mountain Goats, “Outer Scorpion Squadron”
Every single one of us wounded, every single one of us guided by some sort of power or thought or delusion or incision. It’s so easy to picture those Radiohead-video-like (or maybe it is REM?) films with so many people walking, practically marching around a cityscape, somehow saying something about the ghosts and shells that walk, but not really telling us what in the hell it all means, which is how it should be anyway, right?Don’t go telling me that it gets better. Sometimes I really do wish that I could enter anyone else’s mind, because I’d help them see that it’s going to be okay; or at the very least, that for none of us will things be okay, always. I consider thinking about it, but then I remember that there’s still bourbon to drink. Throw everything in the kitchen sink. Just tell us that you know, just tell us what you think.
When John Darnielle brushes his teeth, he sneers, and dares you to brush yours too. He’s wearing a “Listen to Slayer” shirt when he flosses, and flips off the light switch, and he heads out to the yard to meditate, except meditation for John Darnielle actually means “practicing walking on coals while yelling with a guitar around his shoulder.” When you are John Darnielle, you do never do things without considering how it reflects on your legacy of recording on boom boxes, then recording with Scott Solter, then realizing that fuck, having a band with a bunch of BAD ASS musicians is something you could, y’know, accomplish. When John Darnielle and Chuck Norris fight, they do not fight, they collaborate on a ritual that conjures bad ass death metal fighting, which is not something that you actually know what it is at this point but believe you me, if you ever meet them in an alley, you will know what it is, that is, until your nose is broken and elbow bends that way elbows-are-not-supposed-to-bend, and then after that shit gets REAL. And while it gets real, John Darnielle sings “Ignition (Remix)” to you, when he is not cackling, because “Ignition (Remix)” is not just ridiculous, it is CALCULATEDLY RIDICULOUS, which makes sense because so is John Darnielle, at least in his ridiculous moments. I suggest that you do not fight this alley fight, and instead you pay homage to the Chuck Norris John Darnielle Consortium. The best way to do this is to practice your karate chops or your boxing speed bag while listening to Get Lonely, because that shit will fuck up your mind and your body pretty severely, and yea, the Mountain Goats Norrisortium will be glad that you paid tribute and you will be spared. Oh yes, you will. For now.