We talk a lot about the bands who saw great successes on the CMJ Charts. Whether that consists of looking at the trajectory of a band’s career as they make it to No. 1, or at the albums that almost make it there. But what about the bands who have a high enough degree of acclaim and recognition that it can be easily taken for granted that college radio would love them? There are some bands that seem like perfect college radio material but just don’t ever see the expected levels of success—the Mountain Goats are one of those bands.
With 15 albums under his belt, John Darnielle, the prolific songwriter behind the Mountain Goats, has seen surprisingly little success on the CMJ charts. We Shall All Be Healed peaked at No. 4 in March, 2004, marking the band’s college radio career high-point. John Vanderslice, a frequent Mountain Goats collaborator and producer of We Shall All Be Healed, was providing some chart competition with his solo release Cellar Door right around the same time.
CMJ Chart For The Week Of March 2, 2005
ARTIST & TITLE
|1||1||STEREOLAB Margerine Eclipse||Elektra|
|2||3||WALKMEN Bows And Arrows||Record Collection|
|3||2||AIR Talkie Walkie||Astralwerks-Source|
|4||6||MOUNTAIN GOATS We Shall All Be Healed||4AD-Beggars|
|5||4||JOHN VANDERSLICE Cellar Door||Barsuk|
|6||5||PHANTOM PLANET Phantom Planet||Epic-Daylight|
|7||11||LIARS They Were Wrong, So We Drowned||Mute|
|8||9||STARSAILOR Silence Is Easy||Capitol|
|9||8||ELECTRELANE The Power Out||Beggars-Too Pure|
|10||10||DIZZEE RASCAL Boy In Da Corner||Matador-XL|
|11||21||XIU XIU Fabulous Muscles||Kill Rock Stars-5RC|
|12||7||CAMERA OBSCURA Underachievers Please Try Harder||Merge|
|13||–||BLONDE REDHEAD Misery Is A Butterfly||4AD-Beggars|
|14||22||FRANZ FERDINAND Franz Ferdinand||Domino|
|15||17||VOLCANO, I’M STILL EXCITED!! Volcano, Im Still Excited!!||Polyvinyl|
|16||12||PRESTON SCHOOL OF INDUSTRY Monsoon||Matador|
|17||24||CORAL Magic And Medicine/Nightfreaks And The Sons Of Becker||Columbia-Deltasonic|
|18||19||DESCENDENTS ‘Merican [EP]||Fat Wreck Chords|
|19||28||COOPER TEMPLE CLAUSE Kick Up The Fire And Let The Flames Break Loose||RCA|
|20||27||LAMBCHOP Aw Cmon / No You Cmon [RADIO]||Merge|
On one hand it may seem like the Mountain Goats have all the makings for college radio success: impeccable, tsateful song-writing, lyrics of literary quality, an aura of “authenticity.” But on the other hand, these same qualities may contribute to the Mountain Goats not reaching greater heights on the college radio charts. Their songwriting can be dense and constructed so solidly in album form that when taken apart as individual songs, as the radio format tends to do, it does not have the same impact. They are the kind of band that alludes to greater fame, but doesn’t quite have what it takes to get there. And in that, they are also the kind of band that has a lot of devoted fans, but maybe just not wide enough appeal to get to that next level.
So while they may not have attained assumed No. 1 spots, over their 20 year career, the Mountain Goats have actually seen more chart success with their recent records, which certainly bucks the trend of most college radio favorites whose stature often fades away with subsequent releases. The Sunset Tree (May 10, 2005), Get Lonely (August 29, 2006), All Eternals Deck (April 12, 2011) and Transcendental Youth (October 30, 2012) all reached the top 10. These albums which saw greater college radio success were all released by large indie labels (4AD and Merge), more heavily produced, and as such, of a different breed than Darnielle’s early, somewhat stripped down works.
Often times we see this scenario play out the opposite way—a band will triumph on the charts earlier on in their career, but not be able to garner the same support twenty years later. While the Mountain Goats most recent release Beat The Champs won’t likely change their college radio story much, even without ever topping the charts they have stayed relevant in college radio for over two decades and their core fans remain committed from one album to the next, a success in and of itself.