“Jaipur” is a monster of song. It’s the only Mountain Goats song you could use as your entrance theme at Wrestlemania.1 It’s one of the all-time great album openers, a razor-sharp statement of purpose that grabs hold of you and shakes your mind clean. It is, indisputably and unavoidably, a banger.2
Lyrically, it’s a mish-mash of Judeo-Christian references, with the narrator drawing on a hazy a mixture of the stories of Joseph and Moses to explain his own background. He re-appropriates “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” to describe a car like a “jewel-encrusted chariot” with a “chrome tailpipe shining bright as spun gold.” Not until the final verse does he recite the proper lyrics of the hymn, but by that point, “carry me home” holds a much more ominous meaning. The specific meaning of the religious references aren’t super-important; they mostly work as an invocation of power. The only god here is the God of Wrath. Woe unto anyone still within the city limits of Atlanta when this man arrives.
For once, the sound quality works in favor of the story being told. The low-fi recording flattens out JD’s strained shout and spreads it across the entire song, like a sinister character lurking around the corner in a horror film who takes seven bullets to the chest and gets back up.3 The buzzing of the tape recorder underneath the guitar is more effective than any swelling of strings could be in selling this character as an agent of holy unstoppable vengeance.4
1. “Werewolf Gimmick” is the obvious runner-up here, but it’s a little on-the-nose for professional wrestling, which we all know is medium where the real art happens in moments of ambiguity and nuance.
2. Urban Dictionary refers to a “banger” as a song that “extremely tight or just unbelievably awesome.”
3. This was probably not the right time to deploy this particular reference.
4. I’m going to level with you here: I really like this song, and I have a lot more that I could say about it, but as I’m writing this Sarah and Kelsey are both sitting on the couch behind me, waiting for me to finish today’s entry so we can begin our evening of programming, and I am, you might guess, a little distracted. I’ve been hunched over my laptop for the past half-hour, trying desperately to focus my thoughts, while they have both been telling me to just type out 500 words and leave it at that, so that’s what I’m going to do. Right now, they’re talking about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which just got renewed for a second season. Didn’t I mention Crazy Ex-Girlfriend yesterday? I’m pretty sure I did. I could easily write 500 words about that right now. One issue with this project is that I deeply love most of these songs, and I feel a pressure to live up to them – an impossible feat, I know, since JD is one of the best songwriters of all time. Okay, now Sarah and Kelsey are listening to a song from this week’s episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I am beginning to suspect that they are trying to sabotage this project, which would be confusing, since the two of them are essentially responsible for me writing about music again. Well, them and Daniel Dockery. And Katie Trosan, too. Okay, Kelsey’s literally yelling at me now. “Just finish your fucking writing so we can watch The 100!” That’s a direct quote. I’ve just, I’ve got to go, I’m sorry.