FROM: CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA
SOUND: INDIE FOLK / INDIE ROCK
Kicking off with the gently epic 'Southwestern Territory', it's almost as though lead singer John Darnielle is doing karaoke to some long-lost Billy Joel song. The track is underpinned by some prolific woodwind, as a former wrestler relives the genuinely touching tale of his glory days while driving trucks to make a living. With his slightly wavering voice adorning the subdued piano, Darnielle surprises with emotional lyrics like, "Climb the turnbuckle high, take two falls out of three, black out for local TV".
This launches directly into 'The Legend of Chavo Guerrero', a rambunctious and lively tune, penned as a love letter from Darnielle to his childhood idol. The story takes us back to the 1970s and 80s to recall what it was like having a professional wrestler as a hero - a "defender of the downtrodden" who punished the bad guys.
'Foreign Object' is one of the most bizarre offerings on the album. To the tune of something not dissimilar to a samba, Darnielle audaciously assures his opponent he intends to pierce his eye with the song's titular item. The juxtaposition between the violence and the track's enthusiastic revelry borders on hilarity.
For an album dedicated to wrestling, there's a surprising variety of angles and material covered in the 12 tracks. Wrestler Bruiser Brody's murder is immortalised in 'Stabbed to Death Outside San Juan', and 'Luna' details the fire that destroyed all of Luna Vachon’s wrestling memorabilia. Cheerful finale 'The Ballad of Bull Ramos' recounts the legendary wrestler's life in retirement.
'Beat The Champ' is a surprisingly light-hearted and diverse affair, considering the content.
Although it's safe to say wrestling is far from being one of my passions, 'Beat The Champ' is a surprisingly enthralling album. Rather than being eye-opening or layered with nuance, this is what it is: straightforward entertainment. it doesn't make it any less music or art - it's simply meant to be taken at face value, much like wrestling itself. The Mountain Goats have once again proven they can pack a solid punch.
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