Concert preview: Mountain Goats finds fresh life in the ring

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

While professional wrestling has long provided popcorn viewing for the masses — what child of the ’80s didn’t as least flirt with Hulkamania? — the sport has also generated a handful of headier projects that examine the outside-the-ring pathos that can infect its seemingly larger-than-life cast of characters. These include Darren Aronofsky’s 2008 film “The Wrestler,” and “Beyond the Mat,” a 2009 documentary that explored the substantial physical and emotional toll those years spent in the ring can levy.

To this list add Beat the Champ, the new full-length from John Darnielle’s Mountain Goats. Over the course of the album’s 13 tracks, Darnielle, singing atop a diverse musical backdrop that shifts comfortably from jazzy piano to scratched-and-clawed acoustic strumming (the scruffy, punk-ish “Choked Out”), details the three-dimensional characters populating this cartoonish world, including a weathered vet holding tight to the matches of his youth (“The Ballad of Bull Ramos”) and a villain intent on finding a worthwhile life outside the ring (“Heel Turn 2”).

Darnielle, as always, remains an empathetic writer with an author’s eye for detail (unsurprising, considering his debut novel “Wolf in White Van” was nominated for a National Book Award in 2014), and even when he’s singing of blood being sprayed — “I will personally stab you in the eye,” he yowls on “Foreign Object” — the focus never drifts from the blood pumping through the veins of his various characters.

Stephen Brodsky opens the show.

Photo by Lissa Gotwals

Wexner Center for the Arts

8 p.m. Wednesday, April 22

1871 N. High St., Campus