My first exposure to the Mountain Goats was actually through a cover song; I had worked on a cabaret production for the infamous drag duo Kiki & Herb, and this particularly show included their rendition of the song "No Children." Though certainly less popular than the other songs they covered, it stuck out to me — for what should be fairly obvious reasons for anyone who's heard this jaunty piano refrain of "I hope you die / I hope we both die."
Look, it's a song about divorce, okay? Anyway that was my gateway into the wonderful works of noted Magic: The Gathering enthusiast John Darnielle and his consortium of accompanists.
Now, 20-some-odd years after the song's release, "No Children" has made an unexpectedly triumphant return as a viral TikTok hit. The juxtaposition of dainty, upbeat music and brutally self-destructive lyrics have struck a chord with Gen Z, I guess, and it's now become what some might call "a thing." (It's now miraculously surpassed "This Year" as the band's most played song on streaming platforms.) By sheer coincidence, the band have released a new-ish live version of the song that (at least for part of it) leans into some jazzy roots. This recording comes from the Jordan Lake Sessions, several nights of live-from-quarantine full band performances that the Goats did over the past year or so. The full performance will be available starting Friday, November 5 via Bandcamp.
Also the fact that "No Children" has gained new legs 20+ years later is delightfully weird. In the meantime, I just started reading my copy of John's new novel Devil House, which he would probably much rather me plug.