Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sun Kil Moon - Benji

Mark Kozelek has mortality on his mind and death is everywhere. Family, friends and strangers alike are under death's sullen influence. While this might sound like a bummer, it allows Kozelek to trip through his memory and ruminate on all those things that we all dwell on - regrets, lost loves, bad moves and the general weirdness of experience. There are a lot of funerals on this record - two songs dwell on the death of his uncle and cousin who die in exactly the same circumstances (burning to death from an exploding aerosol in burning trash - Carissa and Truck Driver), there are equally strange diversions. The plaintive Dogs recounts a sexual history (presumably his) in frank and startlingly detail - the embarrassments, the missteps and weirdness that comes with intimacy. I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same is essentially a 10 minute recounting of that experience. From being blown away by the psychedelic scenes and regretting picking on a kid in his class, the song sprawls through the hazy recollections of that time. The final song (Ben's My friend) is about Kozelek attending a Postal Service concert and being vaguely annoyed at everything - it's pretty funny.

The central touchstones here seem to be I Can't Live Without My Mother's Love and I Love My Dad. There is a sense that all of this rumination on death has led to him to say things in song he probably can't say in person, those things we all find difficult to say. The song to his mother is fittingly sentimental while the the one to his dad recounts the tough love and awkward attempts at instilling lessons in the young Kozelek. Both are beautiful songs of dedication and love. They sentiment is only rivalled by the darkly angry Pray For Newtown, an track through the pointlessness of gun violence.

Kozelek has largely abandoned the need for choruses and recounts the tales with detail and wit without the need to stick to traditional song structures. That's not to suggest it is unlistenable or melody is absent, the songs present as tales you would hear around the kitchen table - full narratives, rambling and occasionally shambolic. It's largely an extension on the album he did with the Album Leaf (Perils from the Sea) which had similar tales with looser structures - here it feels much more intimate like Kozelek has revealed his heart and soul for all to witness. The album can feel slightly impenetrable on first listen but repeated listens reveal the bruised beauty within. In some ways it is an odd album, it is achingly personal but relatable on every level - it's Mark Kozelek's version of our own fucked up lives, moving and hauntingly human.


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