I can’t hand out nor hang candy from the trees for trick or treat this year. Instead, I have made a mix tape with an answer song to every track on the new Mountain Goats record. I have dubbed 200 copies of it over the last week. It is odd, because nearly the entirety of the call back tape is that record by the silver fox, Charlie Rich, “Behind Closed Doors”. The tape begins with the 1973 cover by Tom Jones of the title track, but the rest is all Charlie, Charlie and his wife and the song his teenage kid wrote for the record. Tom Jones, all that bravado couldn’t mask the insecurities of the narrator in the title cut, the hurt under the brag. It serves as a touchstone to many of the songs on the new record, including my favorite, “Get Famous” which could have been written by the same cat, except this time he is pissed and shellacking that bouquet of rose reds with poison. I left hand mention this to John Darnielle as I prep a box of his Nurse With Wound and early Human League records that have resided in my garage for a decade to take a trip home to him. “That Song, “Get Famous” is really is one of the meanest songs I’ve ever written. The narrator is a guy who is not used to actually saying “fuck you.” He says this in reference to me mentioning that the voice in the song sounds like the voice of one that has seldom cussed. Fuck. I was right. Right again to an answer that doesn’t matter much.
The walls of Sun & Muscle Shoals studios where the record was recorded seem to have lent a laconic slow bake to the tunes on the new record. Pudding skin on top of skin growing over the soft, vulnerable innards which are still fully in tact and waiting for you to dig into. I have taken to digesting the record slowly, falling in love with it over the end of the summer as I pace the floorboards with the headphones on, trying not to wake up my wife or kid. Time was a cassette with 4 songs would be slapped in my hands every other week with new tunes that were freshly recorded on that boombox heard on the cassette of John’s released this past spring, but this one rings truer to the arena of those discoveries than that cassette did.
Trick or treat. I am ordering a bunch of them large candy bars, and am going to hand deliver 100’s of them on each doorstep in my neighborhood on Halloween along with the white shell dubbed tape. Something small and sweet that is a way for me to tell my neighbors that I love them, anonymously even if they have a ring camera on me. I will be dressed up in my same old clothes, but they won’t recognize me for I will be in an ecstatic state of peace, having digested and ridding myself of a near year of our misery. I miss you my dear friends, my arms length compatriots, you sweet old stranger that I talk to twice a year but think of more than you would know. We have all been residing behind closed doors for so long without a ring at the door, that we have forgotten what that chime sounds like when it sings. May I leave this sweetness at the foot of your threshold, far enough away so it isn’t trampled on, but close enough that the racoons and rats don’t wander it away? I am slowly getting into knives, slow enough that no one is going to get hurt. I will use them only for opening up other worlds, Okay? Other worlds that have been here, before me, in wait.