Jesu / Sun Kil Moon
There’s no artist quite like Mark Kozelek at the moment. He’s not so much producing albums as presenting us with a series of personal journal entries. We get the exact dates and times of when he’s writing the lyrics. ‘Beautiful You’, August 31st 2015, 2.36 pm. We get updates on his various projects. It turns out that most of his scenes from the film he told us about in the last album ended up being cut. We check in with his family. His father’s doing OK, which is good to hear. He reads us a couple of fan letters. We get a hint of his reaction when he learns that Pitchfork only gave him a miserly 6.0 for Universal Themes. “What took them so long?”. It’s all so intimate, it’s like catching up with an old friend. But it’d all be merely a post-modern, internet-age trope if it wasn’t for the quality of the work. This album comes with some of Mark Kozelek’s most gut-wrenching lyrics, even by the standards of his recent material. On ‘Fragile’, we learn of his reaction to the death of Chris Squire. We get to hear a lot about how important Yes were to him, which is sort of interesting. But it’s when he makes the link between Chris Squire and Christopher, his teenage friend who had leukaemia, that things get really chokey. Yet even that pales next to ‘Exodus’. Referencing Nick Cave, Mike Tyson and Danielle Steel, he sends his love to all bereaved parents. It’s utterly respectful when name-checking the celebrities. Again, though, things soon get personal. Carissa, from Benji, his friend Chris, who we’ve just heard about, Katy, his ex-girlfriend, who’s present on almost every song on the album, his uncle Lenny, whose death we were told about on ‘Brothers’ from the Mark Kozelek and Desertshore album, all of them left behind bereaved parents. And Mark Kozelek shares their pain. He’s not part of the club, but he communicates the feeling of what it means to be a member like no-one else around. And as if that wasn’t enough, and whether it’s composed by him, Jesu, or other friends, some of the music is simply beautiful. For sure, the sludge guitar spoils some the tracks. Maybe it was an unconscious way of getting that 6.0 out of his system, but it doesn’t work. The lyrics get swallowed up. Yet on songs like ‘Father’s Day’, ‘Beautiful You’, and ‘Exodus’ again, the music is almost as unbearable as the lyrics. Mark Kozelek is a unique talent. It’ll be great to catch up with him again in a few months to see where he’s at, to find out how things are with his family, and to hear more stories about his life.