I am obsessed with the Mountain Goats.
I have been for close to five years now. To clarify - and at the risk of offending any computer literate goats reading this post - the band, not the animal. This is something I have to constantly clarify to confused onlookers whenever I wear my 'I only listen to the Mountain Goats' t-shirt.
There's probably a lot of reasons of this. For starters their large back catalogue, rich mythology and multi-layered lyrics seem to breed obsession. I am yet to meet a 'casual' Mountain Goats fan.
Secondly, I have a history of getting blindly obsessed with bands, my many Creed CD's can pay testament to this. But there's another, much more important reason. When I am at my lowest I am constantly met by John Darnielle's music, reminded that other people have felt this way. That they endured it and so can I.
It was in my first year of marriage that I really began the journey down The Mountain Goats rabbit hole. The year was 2013. I was newly married, far too young (21 at the time) and completely unprepared for the responsibility of marriage or the rigours of adulthood in general. To make matters worse I was in the closet about the fact that I suffered from fairly serious depression and anxiety. All-in-all not exactly a recipe for success.
Weighed down by the fact I was working a full time job I hated, had next to no time or energy to connect in a meaningful way with the wonderful lady I had married and loosing roughly 70% of my pay check to rent, I slipped into a fairly bitter and angry depression. Things continued to decline from there.
The later half of the year brought with it a crisis of faith and to make matters worse the granny flat I was giving up most of my pay-check to afford was toxic. Not just with mould, but with the screams of the couple who owned the house above us. We were desperately trying to start our marriage in the shadow of the dying screams of theirs.
Then, ironically enough, I discovered The Mountain Goats album Tallahassee. Anyone familiar with The Mountain Goats will know that a great deal of the songs on the album deal with the infamous Alpha couple, a pair of fictitious reoccurring characters whose relationship is constantly on the verge of ending.
At the time I did not know this.
Having cut my teeth on The Sunset Tree I was operating on the false assumption that all Mountain Goats songs were autobiographical. When Darnielle sang about the fictitious pair of doomed lovers I thought he was recounting his real life experiences. And I instantly connected
For better or worse the chorus to No Children become something of a mantra in that first year. In a time in my life when I didn't want to live with my choices, or live in general, there was something cathartic, and even healing, about screaming out 'I hope you die, I hope we both die' at the top of my lungs.
When everyone else was spurting off the same drivel about how much fun the first year of marriage should be, or how 'blessed' I was to have a wife and a job this little album was the only thing that echoed the reality I was experiencing. That other people had felt the terrible, dark and down right nasty things that I felt continually and that they had come out of it. It provided me with a weird sort of strength.
The Mountain Goats continue to be a big part of my life. I have months when they are all I listen to and not a year goes by that I don't find my self screaming 'I am going to make it through this year if it kills me' at the top of my lungs on a lonely car ride home.
I was lucky enough to see John Darnielle speak early 2015. Seeing him in the flesh was surreal. Although he had so much to say about art, one thing he said continues to stay with me, 'Art can't harm, it can only nourish'.
In a year when it felt like so much of my life was going to shit; when I had married the woman of my dreams but felt the worst I had ever felt, a series of songs about a failed marriage nourished me. Sustained me. Saved me. Instead of punishing me for the terrible things I felt it simply let me know other people have felt that way too.
Although I continue to struggle with depression and anxiety on a daily basis, and have lost many things to my illness, I have not lost my marriage. It's stronger then ever, and that terrible first year has become a boon reminding my wife and I of what we can get through together.