The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle is one of the most gifted and prolific songwriters in the business, but he's settled into an odd paradox: As his subject matter has grown more ambitious and far-flung, with entire concept albums about goths and D&D and wrestlers and whatnot, the music that surrounds him has been polished to a breezy mid-tempo sheen. His catalog is peppered with scream-along anthems like "No Children" and "This Year," but Darnielle has spent the last decade-plus in a mellow mood.
If you're a Mountain Goats fan who's missed the white-knuckle intensity of that earlier work, "Training Montage" — the first single from Bleed Out, which arrives Aug. 19 — provides a bliss-inducingly anthemic payoff. Bleed Out will be yet another concept album, but its theme lends itself to a bit more intensity: "I got this idea to write a bunch of songs where they were all uptempo mini-action movies," Darnielle writes in a press statement. "Plots, characters, heists, hostages, questionable capers, getaway cars, all that stuff. Gas pedal glued to the floor. Eventually, as you might guess I wanted at least one song where the tempo relaxed a little and that's the title track but otherwise, buckle up."
Damned if "Training Montage" doesn't do exactly what he says it will: It churns and blares with action-movie intensity as Darnielle sings of dripping sweat and bare feet on concrete before throttling into a line that'll send a thousand fists flying skyward: "I'm doing this for revenge!"