One of the aspects of John Darnielle’s songwriting I admire most is his eager conviction that anything — absolutely anything — is potential inspiration for him to sit down with his guitar and create a tune that is piercing and true. He’s talked about that in live performances I’ve seen. He’d learn something in a history class and immediately want to rush home and merge his impressions of the particular slice of the past with a couple of well chosen chords.
I’d long assumed that his song “Cubs in Five,” which leads the 1995 EP Nine Black Poppies, referenced the baseball team that grabbed onto my heart when I was a mere child, innocently unaware of the decades of heartbreak I was committing to, almost at random. It turns out Darnielle was himself a genuine and long-time fan of the Chicago National League ball club. Appealingly, it was his prevailing sense of justice that led Darnielle to throw in with the Cubs, according to a piece he recently wrote for Slate.
As any true Cub fan is all too aware, the notion of the Cubs playing championship baseball feels roughly as likely as Chaucer topping the bestseller list or a broken romantic relationship being mended. Then again, who knows? Beowulf sold a whole bunch of new copies just a couple years ago. At least as I type this, the prediction built into the title of the Mountain Goats song still could come true. Hey hey.
Listen or download –> the Mountain Goats, “Cubs in Five”
(Disclaimer: I believe Nine Black Poppies is out of print, at least as a physical object that can be procured from your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a manner that compensates both the proprietor of said store and the original artist and songwriter. I share this here not to commit theft from a creator I respect a great deal, but to excitedly celebrate his music and encourage people to go out and buy some. Darnielle is remarkable prolific as a songwriter and consistent as a performer. Just about any release under the Mountain Goats moniker is worthwhile, and almost every album has at least one track that approaches brilliance. Buy something today! Despite my lack of malice and belief in the principle of fair use, I do know the rules. I will gladly and promptly remove this file from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)