The Mountain Goats have taken concept albums to a new level, letting their imagination run free. There was the wrestling-inspired 2015 album Beat the Champ, and 2019 saw the release of In League with Dragons, the band’s epic ode to tabletop gaming. Now they’re gearing up for the release of their 21st album Bleed Out (Aug. 19, Merge Records), inspired by action films of the 60s to the 90s that frontman John Darnielle took solace in at the beginning of the pandemic.
Today (July 11), The Mountain Goats share the album’s second single “Wage Wars Get Rich Die Handsome.” Soaring power-pop guitars and jangly drums sound like a victorious free-fall from a plane with a single parachute. Darnielle belts out the song’s titular chorus that begs for a singalong. He offers sound advice that sounds right out of the mouth of a handsome action star, reminding the listener to “Live once, you get to pay twice / Keep your nose clean / Keep your wheels nice.”
Darnielle dives into the making of the album’s euphoric ripper, saying:
When I write an album that revolves around a theme, it usually takes two or three songs before I notice what’s going on. There’s always one song that becomes the “might as well dive all the way in” song and on Bleed Out that song was “Wage Wars Get Rich Die Handsome,” written while watching a French action movie way past my normal bedtime. Once I had the chorus of this one I started asking myself the kinds of questions that usually end up shaping the album: What if I just wrote all the songs on guitar? What if I leaned into the uptempo ones? In recent years I shy away from the fist-punch no-brakes anthemic style but here I figured, you know, no point just wading around in blood if I’m already in knee-deep.
Below, listen to “Wage Wars Get Rich Die Handsome” and preorder Bleed Out ahead of its Aug. 19 release here.