A Season of Songs, day 25: No Children

A Season of Songs is a type of Fun-A-Day project that I plan to do throughout this spring.  I’ll hit shuffle on the ol’ iPod and see what comes up.  I’ll then write a bit about that song, the band, the record, whatever.  Enjoy!

I feel that one of the important things for maintaining a healthy attitude about any relationship is recognizing that it could end.  The end is not necessarily a bad thing. Whether personal relationship or job or anything, it is good to have a certain sense of humor about the possibility that all could go south.  Inevitably, at work, whenever myself or my co-worker Mike go into a one-on-one meeting with the boss in his office, we’ll come out and say “Well, it’s been nice working with you” and pretend to start packing up our personal affects.  Sure, one day it might be for real, but for now it brings a little levity to the workday.

I feel like the same could be said for my love affair with today’s song, “No Children” by the Mountain Goats from their 2002 album “Tallahassee”.

And I hope when you think of me years down the line
You can’t find one good thing to say
And I’d hope that if I found the strength to walk out
You’d stay the hell out of my way

“No Children” is a song featuring the Mountain Goat’s recurring characters, the “Alpha Couple” – a couple whose failing marriage was documented in various songs over the years, with many of the songs beginning with the word “Alpha” (i.e. “Alpha Desperation March”.  “Tallahassee” seems to be the end of the road for the Alpha Couple as they haven’t really appeared on any albums since then.  Everything has fallen apart and this song is a sort of catharsis from the husband’s point of view expressing that the entire marriage was a failure, that nothing good came from it and his hopes that he never can find a good thing to say about his wife in the future.  The song ends “I am drowning, there is no sign of land / You are coming down with me, hand in unlovable hand / And I hope you die / I hope we both die”.

One might find it odd that someone who is so happily married as myself would enjoy such a song and to a certain extent, relate to such a song, but I do.  It should be noted that Emma, my wife, is as much a lover of this song as I am.  Someone might say that we are reveling in someone else’s failures, but I think that’s not it.  It’s much more about recognizing one’s own fears and dark thoughts.  I think so many people hide those feelings and thoughts.  They need to think “This relationship is good.  This marriage is strong” to hide those insecurities and ultimately that leads to the fights and the conflicts that make many relationships hard to handle and that lead to breakups.  Embracing that darkness and projecting in out into the world, such as onto the Alpha Couple, helps us deal a little with those less than perfect moments in our own relationships.

Or at least that’s how it feels to me. “No Children” has become a crowd favorite at Mountain Goats songs with everyone singing along.  I’m not sure what drives the rest of the crowd to shout at the top of their lungs “I hope you die / I hope we both die”, but they do.  For me, I’m incredibly happy to be able to look over at my wife and sing along “I hope I lie and tell everyone you were a good wife” with her smiling back.

“Tallahassee” usually ranks among my top 3 Mountain Goats albums.  I don’t think there’s a bad track on it.  Seriously love it so much.  Other top albums right now:

“The Coroner’s Gambit” – (2000) This was the first Mountain Goats record that I heard. Strangely, my favorite track from this record is called “There Will Be No Divorce”, with the lyrics “And then the old voice crackled through the static / And I felt young and alive / And the hairs stood up on the back of my neck / We were rising from the grave / Yeah, yeah”  Other highlights = Shadow Song, Insurance Fraud #2

“Transcendental Youth” – (2012) Not the most recent album but the one before that.  The album starts off with the lyrics “Do every stupid thing that makes you feel alive / Do every stupid thing to try to drive the dark away / Let people call you crazy for the choices that you make / Climb limits past the limits / Jump in front of trains all day /And stay alive / Just stay alive”.  If nothing else, this song “Amy AKA Spent Gladiator 1” makes the album worthwhile.  Like some of the other newer albums, some of the other tracks took a little time to grow on me, but its another solid album. Other favorites include = Lakeside View Apartment Suite, The Diaz Brothers, Counterfeit Florida Plates.

I’m really excited to see The Mountain Goats for maybe the 7-8th time next week. Just picked up the new album (Beat the Champ) last week so still trying to get familiar with it.  Looking forward to spending more time with it.

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