Beat the Champ

Beat the Champ

Nominated for the National Book Award for his novel Wolf In White Van, John Darnielle is clearly in a literary state of mind for 2015’s Mountain Goats’ album Beat the Champ, where he writes of the ‘70s world of wrestling. The musically aggressive “Choked Out” is stream-of-consciousness, lending poetry and reflection to a man being held in a choke-hold. Piano plays a larger part in his sound than usual, adding contemplative depth and dangerous vamping to “Southwestern Territory,” “Fire Editorial,” “Werewolf Gimmick” and “Luna.” Darnielle’s distinctive yawp holds everything together, finding even intimacy on the acoustic-based “Unmasked!”

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