Review Summary: Another dead and gone
By the end of Mark Kozelek & Desertshore
, the listener will probably think Kozelek has a more soul destroying yet subtle form of Midas’ touch: where instead of turning to gold, everything he touches is doomed to meet a premature death. This is because a healthy portion of his encounters throughout the album end with him returning a verse later to describe how they died. He’s obsessed by all accounts, but not just by death. Mark Kozelek & Desertshore
also explores a flirtation with love (through “Tavoris Cloud” and the rather excellent opener, “Mariette”) and the pressures of growing up at 46. Both of these age and, by association, death related. Light listening, then…
This isn’t Kozelek’s first outing with Desertshore, the San Francisco based trio made mostly of old friends (1 x Red House Painters guitarist, 1 x Sun Kil Moon drummer, 1 x pianist). However, where he only took a production and light instrumental role in their last effort, the entirety of Mark Kozelek & Desertshore
is given over to Kozelek’s rambling storytelling. Although he’s been met with a little criticism for this style, with its rough around the edges style feeling lazy to some, it works to his credit here: offering an uncensored, first person view into the thoughts and adventures of Mark Kozelek.
Fan’s may be a bit on the fence with this news, as a career longer than my lifetime spent doing just the same doesn’t leave many major events left to sing about. Kozelek just about manages it though and given his recent electronic collaboration with Jimmy Lavalle he might be forgiven for relaxing into something more comfortable. Regardless, his lyrical content here is fresh to the point of only being possible now in the post-Among the Leaves part of his career: where Kozelek can move from his career and life on the road to the general mundanities lying behind it all.
Desertshore do their part in rounding out the album. From the wonderfully carefree swing of “Mariette” to the appropriately slowcore inspired “Sometimes I Can’t Stop”, the band succeeds in creating an appropriate, if sometimes only adequate, tone. However, as with many of Kozeleks projects and collaborations the spotlight doesn’t seem to be enough for more than one person, leaving Mark Kozelek & Desertshore
feeling more like Mark Kozelek & a band rather than Kozelek & specific musicians.
Nevertheless, the end result is still an entertaining and expectedly morbid affair. Long-time Kozelek fans are treated with much of the same material which made his name in the first place, while everyone else is treated to a fantastic character study of a man slowly coughing up his demons. Just don’t expect to be left happy at the end.