Can I shock you? I like Sun Kil Moon.*
Ever since hearing Red House Painters after being dumped by my first serious girlfriend I have been a huge Mark Kozelek fan. The lyrics were mopey, heartbroken, and the mood was introspective. Winner! I’ve bought live albums, I’ve bought T-shirts to get “exclusive” live albums, I’ve even bought a hardback book of lyrics. Fandom!
Mark Kozelek is known for album’s that as, Amazon put it, are “like an hourlong microscopic dissection of a broken heart”. What he’s not so known for is his humour. There’s evidence here and there; a downbeat folky album of Modest Mouse covers (actually excellent); almost calling the best of Red House Painters “Redtrospective”; the lyric “Scenesters with their beards and tennis shoes/Skinny and pudgy ugly dudes on “Third and Seneca” from Admiral Fell Promises, SKM’s last-but-one album.
In fact, to garble the above quoted lyric, “pudgy ugly dudes in tennis shoes” could be the key to Mark Kozelek’s new album (as Sun Kil Moon) , “Among The Leaves”.
To step back a little, I went to see Mark Kozelek play in Manchester way back in 2007. I remember thinking
a) “Hey he’s pretty funny”
b) “Hey he’s kind of an asshole”
He went on about Ricky Hatton (he’s a massive boxing fan), grumbled at the audience a bit, made a few lame jokes, played some beautiful songs. He came across as a someone who was not the introspective balladeer of his songs, in fact it would be a surprise if he was.
It seems that, on Among The Leaves, Mark Kozelek is trying to show himself as he actually is – or at least a different side to him – compared to the melancholic man that usually comes out when he writes his songs.
In an interview on http://sunkilmoon.com/hearsay2012.pdf they state the album is “melancholy” and “somber”. Whilst it’s true all the songs aren’t sunshine and light, it’s clear from song titles “The Moderately Talented Yet Not So Attractive Middle Aged Man” and “Not Much Rhymes with Everything’s Awesome at All Times” that Kozelek’s tongue is not a million miles away from his cheek. I think Kozelek is giveing a much truer, less melodramatic, image of his life than the narrow focus of previous SKM/RHP albums. He sings on (two) songs of getting the clap (“a little sting”), being bored, not liking the UK all that much (a common American musician complaint) and the man who fixed his guitars….
Previously, he has put women on a pedestal – I’m thinking of the whole of April (about his recently deceased ex) and old songs like “Sumemr Dress” – but on this album a different picture emerges. There’s the “moderately talented young woman” and also the “woman dressed like a witch” he “picked up at 12 and she was gone by 2”.
So as this is an album, what’s the music like? Mainly acoustic, nothing ornately arranged, just guitar and voice. This is similar to “Admiral Fell Promises” but that album was intricate, even ornate, and the songs felt hugely crafted – on this one there’s a sense of things being a bit more tossed off, most definitely looser. Kozelek says in his interview with Hearsay, “I don’t writer bad songs but some of these are pretty bad. I just wanted to show some vunerability and not care.”
This is particularly clear on tracks such as “Track number 8” -“I wrote this one and I know it aint great – I’ll probably sequence it track number 8”. The song, naturally, appears, on track number 11.
So this isn’t a great album. But I think it is a good one. It’s fun to listen to mainly because it’s Mark Kozelek telling the story of his life at the moment, and, you know what, he’s a pretty entertaining guy.
*To avoid confusion Mark Kozelek is a singer songwriter who is the main man behind Sun Kil Moon and previously The Red House Painters.