By now the songwriter-singer-novelist-metal critic John Darnielle has written hundreds of songs. As the Mountain Goats, he's issued dozens of albums, cassettes and 45s since he first started recording music on a boom box in the early 1990s. Under his own name, Darnielle is responsible for the literary novel "Wolf in White Van," about a paralyzed metalhead who conceives a magnificently intricate video game. Published to high praise in 2014, the book was one of 10 fiction finalists for the National Book Award. The man can write.
In its own way, "Beat the Champ" is as richly imagined and detailed as "Wolf in White Van." It's a concept album, except instead of spinning odes to the deaf, dumb, blind pinballer of "Tommy," the record's overarching theme is the world of wrestling.