The lyrics “made for the chapel with some spray paint…” do not seem like something that you would hear in spiritual music. This is because the Mountain Goats’ album The Life of the World to Come isn’t like other religious music that focuses simply on praising Jesus. Rather than spreading pro-Christianity messages, the album focuses on the reason why people become spiritual and their spirituality helps them throughout the hardships of life. Each song on the album is titled after a Bible verse, save for one song being two verses and the final song being a whole Biblical chapter. John Darnielle, the frontman of the Mountain Goats, described this album on their official website as “twelve hard lessons the Bible taught me.” Most of the songs are very vague in nature, leaving the listener to decide what these lessons inscribed in the songs are.
The lesson to the song is that there will constantly be things to make a religious person question God. “It's kind of an angry-at-God sort of song” Darnielle tells Pitchfork. He also mentions that “in the case of people who are so damaged they wind up taking their own lives, well, you’d think an all-powerful God could have prevented that.” This thought leads back to the questioning of why people who commit suicide would go to Hell. It argues that ultimately God is the one who decides if the man will end up killing himself when creating him.
The song later describes his comfort in God with the chorus: “And someone leads The Beast in on its chain/But I know you're thinking of me ‘cause it's just about to rain/So I wont be afraid of anything ever again.” The Beast is a figure in the Book of Revelations related to Satan. The aforementioned holding tank led the narrator to this fate of facing The Beast, a feat that Christian’s had to endure in Revelations. Yet during this, the person feels that God is watching over the event, so there is no need for fear.
The lesson to this song is that you will be faced with many responsibilities and hardships in your life that you have to overcome, no matter how impossible they may seem. Despite the fact that the narrator felt unready, as any person would, to leave someone they love, they were still able to get through it. The song concludes with the lines “And you were a presence full of light upon this earth/And I am a witness to your life and to its worth/It’s three days later when I get the call/And there’s nobody around to break my fall.” Although there was nobody to comfort the narrator through this tragedy, the positivity of the mindset that they knew this amazing person who passed away proves that the person will be able to get through it after all. The lessons of these previous three songs never tell the listener to find solace in God, but rather just state that there will be many problems in life that will either make people skeptical that God exists or angry at God.
The third track is “Genesis 3:23” and, in contrast all of the aforementioned songs, does not deal with spirituality. The words from the Bible verse “So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken” are used to express the emotion Adam felt from leaving his homeland, rather than the concept of being literally banished from somewhere.
By Josh Grube: Mr. Grube is currently a Mass Communication student working for his college's newspaper and indie/alternative radio station. He also enjoys making videos and music.