Flight 717: Going to Denmark by The Mountain Goats

I look at you and I know that the house will come down
Because your burning eyes are bright and pure
But there's a room for us in a red brick building
By a bright green field in Denmark
Denmark: a relatively small country not known for much. Danish cookies, perhaps, or competency on the football field, atmospheric TV series and dark literature. Home to less than 6 million, Denmark straddles the North and Baltic Seas, lying south of Norway, southwest of Sweden and bordered only by Germany in the south. Denmark is an old country, inhabited since 12,500 BC. This Scandinavian region has a bloody history, due largely to the Viking era. From the 8th to 10th Century AD, the Danes joined the Swedes and Norwegians as the Vikings raided, pillaged, and colonized most of northern Europe.

Village in Denmark<br>Photo: <a href=",_%C3%86r%C3%B8sk%C3%B8bing.jpg">Erik Christensen</a>, <a href="">CC BY-SA 3.0</a>, via Wikimedia CommonsVillage in Denmark
Photo: Erik Christensen, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The Danes were later Christianised and unified under Canute the Great, but their bloody history didn't end there. From the 16th to 19th Centuries, Denmark was involved in a series of struggles, most notably in the Thirty Years War against Germany and then against the Swedes in the Scanian War (Skånske Krig). It was only during the European Revolutions that Denmark was able to truly gain its independence, instituting a constitutional monarchy in 1849. But Denmark's problems were far from over. During WWII, Denmark was invaded by Germany and only managed two hours of resistance before surrendering. After the war, Denmark became a founding member of the UN and NATO, through which the Danes have led many humanitarian operations into war-torn areas such as Bosnia, Afghanistan and Kosovo.

Today, Denmark maintains a constitutional monarchy and is a sovereign state including the Faeroe Islands and Greenland. Denmark has come a long way since the Viking era and now enjoys a mixed economy, ranking the country seventh (2011) in terms of income per capita. Denmark is also considered number one in the world when it comes to income equality. Like most of the Nordic countries, Denmark has a progressive culture geared towards equality and egalitarianism. In 1989, Denmark became the first country with a registered partnership law giving same-sex couples almost all the same rights as traditional marriage. Given the picturesque coastlines, the pristine agricultural fields and quaint Scandinavian homes dotting the countryside, the low crime rate and high standard of living, it's not hard to see why Denmark might appeal to John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats.

Grenen near Skagen, Denmark<br>Photo: <a href="">Martin Olsson</a>, <a href="">CC BY-SA 3.0</a>, via Wikimedia CommonsGrenen near Skagen, Denmark
Photo: Martin Olsson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
"Flight 717: Going to Denmark" appears on the compilation album, Ghana; the band's final installment in a three-part series. Ghana, released in 2002, includes 31 tracks. Of those, six are part of the "Going to..." series. "Flight 717: Going to Denmark" is track 22, a 2 minute 18 second low-fi offering, consisting of shrill guitar strumming and Darnielle's signature strained vocals. The lyrics tell a love story, expressing a young man's disillusionment with life in the USA and dreaming of foreign shores. This sentiment seems apparent in the repetitive and somewhat aggressive guitaring. The last line of the song succinctly summarises it, "I feel the California sky closing in. There's a room for us on the third floor of a red brick building, By a green field with a stream running through it in Denmark."

Given the number of "Going to..." songs Darnielle appends to albums, it seems the musician suffers more from interminable wanderlust rather than any real sense of wanting to start life over in the more exotic locations he describes in his lyrics. If life in the USA is getting him down, going to Denmark may be a better choice than going to Bolivia or Lebanon. But then the grass always seems greener on the other side, or a field which comes complete with a red brick building and stream, at least in Denmark.

Suzanne van Rooyen
March 16, 2014

Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. Although she has a Master's degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. Her published novels include Dragon's Teeth, Obscura Burning, and The Other Me.


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