John Darnielle is one fine songwriter. I'm amazed at how people (mis-)interpret this song, from the Mountain Goats' 2005 album, "The Sunset Tree." Like many great songs, it's open to a variety of readings. But it's not a love ballad to love, love, love...
King Saul, Joseph and his brothers, Sonny Liston, Raskolnikov, Kurt Cobain -- what a strange progression....
From an NPR interview with Darnielle:
"The point of the song is, you know, that we are fairly well damaged by the legacy of the Romantic poets--that we think of love as this, you know, thing that is accompanied by strings and it's a force for good, and if something bad happens then that's not love. And the therapeutic tradition that I come from--I used to work in therapy--you know, also says that it's not love if it feels bad. I don't know so much about that. I don't know that the Greeks weren't right. I think they were--that love can eat a path through everything--that it will destroy a lot of things on the way to its own objective, which is just its expression of itself, you know. I mean, my stepfather loved his family, right? Now he mistreated us terribly quite often, but he loved us. And, you know, well, that to me is something worth commenting on in the hopes of undoing a lot of what I perceive as terrible damage in the way people talk about this--love is this benign, comfortable force. It's not that. It's wild, you know?"
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