The Mountain Goats – “Up the Wolves” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Joanna Landrum

Joanna holds a BSc in English Literature and uses her expertise in literary analysis to uncover the deeper meaning of her favorite songs.

“Up the Wolves” by The Mountain Goats is a hauntingly beautiful song that revolves around themes of redemption, forgiveness, and the inevitable passage of time. The lyrics suggest a journey through personal struggles, a confrontation with past ghosts, and the anticipation of a transformative moment of relief. The songwriter, John Darnielle, crafts a narrative that seems both personal and universal, using vivid imagery and metaphorical language. He emphasizes the importance of facing one’s demons and the healing power of time. The “wolf” in the song could be a metaphor for facing the past or a moment of reckoning, and the anticipation of its arrival suggests a turning point or catharsis. Darnielle might have written this song as a form of self-reflection or to offer solace to others going through similar struggles.

“Up the Wolves” is a song rich in metaphor and emotion. Unravel the layers of this track and discover how ghosts, wolves, and the quest for redemption weave together in a melody of resilience and hope.


“Up the Wolves” Lyrics Meaning

The song starts with the universal truth that everyone has their own ghosts and unresolved issues, “There’s bound to be a ghost at the back of your closet, no matter where you live.” These ghosts represent the things we find hard to forgive and let go of.

Darnielle then moves to a message of hope and reassurance, “There’s gonna come a day when you’ll feel better, you’ll rise up free and easy on that day.” This suggests that while the struggle is real and present, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The imagery of floating from branch to branch, lighter than the air, conveys a sense of freedom and weightlessness that comes with healing and forgiveness.

The line “Our mother has been absent ever since we founded Rome” is metaphorical, possibly alluding to a sense of abandonment and the need to fend for oneself. Yet, the subsequent line, “But there’s gonna be a party when the wolf comes home,” introduces the wolf as a symbol of return, reckoning, or celebration.

The second verse delves into a plan of action, “I’m gonna get myself in fighting trim, scope out every angle of unfair advantage.” This shows a readiness to take on challenges, to prepare for the confrontation with the past or the wolves in our lives.

“Our mother has been absent, ever since we founded Rome. But there’s gonna be a party when the wolf comes home,” these lines are repeated, reinforcing the theme of absence, struggle, and the eventual return or resolution.

The Story Behind “Up the Wolves”

John Darnielle, the mastermind behind The Mountain Goats, is known for his ability to weave intricate stories and emotions into his lyrics. “Up the Wolves” is serving as a powerful narrative about overcoming past struggles and finding redemption. Darnielle had already established himself as a songwriter capable of tackling deep and personal themes. His music often reflects his own experiences and struggles, and “Up the Wolves” seems to be a reflection of this introspective journey.

The song’s themes of facing one’s ghosts, the passage of time, and the anticipation of a transformative moment are universal. Darnielle, through his unique storytelling and vivid imagery, taps into these universal feelings, offering a sense of understanding and companionship to listeners.

“Up the Wolves” proves The Mountain Goats’ ability to connect with listeners on a deep, emotional level. It’s a song that encourages reflection, acknowledges the pain of the past, and ultimately, offers a message of hope and redemption. Through this track, Darnielle reminds us that while the journey might be tough, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and a chance for a fresh start.