The Mountain Goats, Indie Music’s ’90s-Woman-est Band

Mountain Goats, Bowery Ballroom, March 28, 2011

Writing for newspapers and magazines lo these last 15 or so years, I have interviewed many famous people, lots of them super hot. But to date, probably the swooniest I ever got was during a 2005 Q&A with the Mountain Goats.

John Darnielle praised feminism, pop music, and marriage. He said wise ’90s-womanly things like, on Andrea Dworkin:

She was really messed up in a lot of ways, but also brave enough to say, “Is it possible that the bedrock of our sexuality is essentially violent?” The simple answer is, “Of course not, because I enjoy myself. What’s not to like there?” Well it takes a big person to go, “Maybe we enjoy ourselves because we’re damaged.”

In the years since, he has continued to be awesome and busy. See: the lovely new album, All Eternals Deck, and big new tour, and fancy late night appearances (e.g., fawned over by Stephen Colbert).

How comforting is his success! For all the cock-rock and misogyny out there, isn’t it wonderful that we have these smart, thoughtful feminist men being cute and charming and making what history will doubtless show is more timeless and influential work?

Feminism of the ’90s gets a bad rap for making men “soft” or emo, but the more I think about it, the more I think that’s not really what happened. If the era did anything, it proved that softness and hardness can go hand-in-hand. Think of Ad-Rock’s sexual violence comments at the VMAs, or John Darnielle’s incredible album dealing with domestic violence, The Sunset Tree.

Those songs make hardcore-moving art out of ’90s-feminist themes of victimization, oppression, and rising up. Also, they’re exhilarating, which I think is a positive legacy of the ’90s: that it’s okay for music to be popular and fun and also be important.

From Sunset Tree, here’s “This Year,” which someone shot at the Bowery the night after I was there (drinking way too much and having way too much fun for a work night):

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One response to “The Mountain Goats, Indie Music’s ’90s-Woman-est Band

  1. I love John Darnielle. Sometimes I want to pinch myself to prove this guy is real. And he’s a hell of a songwriter to boot.

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