Now Here We Are Thirty Years Later: A Memoir in Mountain Goats Songs

By Richard O'Brien

An experimental music memoir inspired by cult band The Mountain Goats.

Saturday, 7 May 2022

New Onions Growing in the Ground

'Springtime's coming - that means you'll be coming back around'

- Onions

I'm writing this morning to say a big, wholehearted thank you to the 39 of you who have already put your faith in this project, getting it to the first milestone of 5% funded. The start of any new project is always tentative, like the cows in the second verse of 'Onions' stepping 'gingerly out of the barn / when they see that the ground is warm,' and in need of nurture - and so in partial recompense for the encouragement you've all generously given to 'Now Here We Are Thirty Years Later,' I wanted to share with you a playlist of Mountain Goats songs that all, in some way, address the themes of new beginnings; renewal; planting seeds in the soil. I'm conscious that not everyone backing the book is as big a fan of the band as I am, and so I'm hoping that this could also serve as something of an introduction for those who need it to John Darnielle's songwriting, and one of its more distinctive qualities: the burning core of hope that seems to carry his speakers beyond the hard times they're so often experiencing, and suggests the possibility of recovery and reintegration on the other side of the flames.

In these twelve songs you'll hear the exploratory rawness of some of Darnielle's early home recordings, and his first steps into different kinds of sonic spaces as the Mountain Goats project evolves around him. 'San Bernardino,' 'Animal Mask,' and 'Black Pear Tree' all deal in different ways with the fear and splendour of bringing something new into the world; 'You or Your Memory' and 'White Cedar' speak from within the painful process of trying to become a new kind of person. And even in 'First Few Desperate Hours,' when Darnielle's Alpha couple arrive in a new town, dragging the baggage of their drawn-out, destructive marriage, to find 'cloven hoofprints' in the garden, there's still an anguished hope that things might yet be different, that 'you' were something worth coming down here for. 

I'm writing, too, in the hope that you'll find something worth coming down here for in this project. Though I don't expect everyone in the world to feel about the Mountain Goats the same way that I do, I'd wager that any fan of any artist knows the experience of feeling that, after a long enough time, they've become enfolded into your life - that the way you see the world, and understand yourself within it, is inherently reshaped by the time you spend with the art that helps you through it. If you want to read more about that, and you know other people who might like to read that kind of story too, then do please consider sharing the Unbound call for backers on your own social media - you could start with this tweet - and see if we can take a few more tentative steps towards our overall funding target.

And if you've been following along with the newsletter, through which the first draft of this book is getting written, I'll be in touch again soon with another chapter, for 2004, about Catholicism, and experimenting with nail varnish, and Oliver Wendell Holmes's 'The Chambered Nautilus.' No thoughts; head empty; only 'The Chambered Nautilus.'

Thanks again and all best wishes,


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posted 10th May 2022

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