Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Album review: SUN KIL MOON - Benji

Highlights: Truck Driver, Pray For Newtown, Richard Ramirez Died Today Of Natural Causes, Micheline, Ben’s My Friend


Latest 10-minute epic from Mark Kozelek is called “I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same”. Lyrically, it is what its title suggests. Musically, it is pretty, charming and disheveled. It is also the quickest way to know where you are with this guy: are you bored with admiration or are you bored with solipsistic self-indulgence? But bored you are, that’s the point.

No signs of slowing down from one of the most prolific songwriters currently in business. Benji is Mark Kozelek’s fifth album in less than two years. Some feat – considering that each and every one of those mines similar depths of mumbling, world-weary greatness. If he doesn’t stop now, this might go the distance.

Obviously, it’s the same old thing. You don’t really expect the man to change: years ago he found his niche and is very much happy sticking around in the same place. It’s called slow-core (no, not like Nymphomaniac), but it has definitely gotten more upbeat with time. Kozelek’s 90’s records (as Red House Painters) were ambient funeral music compared to this. “Jim Wise” is joyful, “I Love My Dad” is one driving rock’n’roll groove, not terribly eventful but befitting Kozelek’s wordy, storytelling approach. His typical song would start something like this: “I was a junior in high school…” And then it goes on and on (and on). Usually it works, though I begin to sense dangerous signs of self-parody in stuff like the afore-mentioned 10-minute epic. Thankfully, the last three songs restore my faith completely, as they are among the best Kozelek has ever written. You will even hear some classy saxophone complementing the largely acoustic guitar ballads. As for “Richard Ramirez Died Today Of Natural Causes”, it is intense and evocative and one of the best songs we will hear all year. 

Well, what else? Mark sounds like Neil Young on “Dogs” and Benji will probably end up on many end-of-year lists. Two separate facts. For me, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Kozelek’s 2013 albums, but if he can go on like this – God knows I won’t mind.

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