Review Summary: This is a Sun Kil Moon record and you're not fooling anyone
Artists that release albums under a bunch of different names are sort of annoying right❓ Cataloging and keeping track of the oeuvre of someone like Devin Townsend is a nightmare. Strapping Young Lad, Devin Townsend, Devin Townsend Band, Devin Townsend Project, Casualties of Cool, give me a break. Is the content of these projects so radically different that they need different names❓ I understand that Strapping Young Lad is heavier than the other stuff, but having a Devin Townsend Band and a Devin Townsend Project is obnoxious. Townsend was like this from the word go, releasing his first solo album under the name Punky Bruister. Yes, Punky fucking Bruister. Ohio native singer/songwriter Mark Kozelek’s liberal use of band names is not quite as egregious and didn’t start until much later, but it’s still annoying.
Mark Kozelek fronted the pioneering slowcore band Red House Painters. When RHP dissolved he formed Sun Kil Moon, which was initially similar to RHP, but transformed into a solo project. He also releases cover albums and oddities under his given name, and collaboration albums often billed as “Mark Kozelek and X”. This self-titled record, however, is an original full-length album, there’s no discernible difference between this record and a Sun Kil Moon record, except that this one was recorded in hotel rooms. But why release an album of new, original songs under his name instead of Sun Kil Moon❓ Because Mark felt like it.
The details of Mark Kozelek’s life that fill his songs are details chosen because he felt like it. His music and lyrics tend to balk at conventional wisdom regarding tropes of composition and structure. On "This is My Town" he lists things he does in a day over a looping guitar. Is this a typical day❓ An extraordinary day❓ One day, or multiple days❓ Mark Kozelek doesn’t provide such context that most artists would consider a vital tool for packing their music, and for the listener to unpack. Yet when done well by Mark, it works. Every like seventh line is profound, and the rest is sort of just there, but isn’t that life man❓ The problem is when the songs don’t have any stand out lyrics and the looping guitar becomes monotonous. There’s plenty of joy to be had in his lyrics, him recounting making friends with little old Asian women and paying for their check at a shop in SF, to how the film Wall Street
reminded him about his dad and made him cry, but these pop culture references and musings on life have a dark side as well. Like the chorus of "666 Post" where Mark begins imitating the sounds his pets make. I have a very high tolerance for Mark’s weirder side, but when he starts making duck noises I have to bow out. There are also tracks like "Weed Whacker" which tells the story of Mark dancing with a weed whacker in tow that are just not interesting. But everything always feels intentional, Mark knows exactly what he’s doing, even at his wackiest, and I have to respect how often he rides the line between idiot and genius.
is average as far as Sun Kil Moon records go. Yes, Mark, it’s a Sun Kil Moon record and you’re not fooling anyone. It has some wonderful tracks like "This is My Town," "The Mark Kozelek Museum," and "I Cried During Wall Street," but like all of his post-Benji
records, there’s a lack of focus. His albums are usually quite long, but this one with its near hour and a half runtime might be a chore to sit through for even the most die-hard Sun Kil Moon fans. But there are some extraordinary movements on this thing. It’s as if he’s hiding diamonds in a big pile of trash - he wants you to dig, to do the work. And it’s work worth doing, but perhaps only for those already well entrenched in Mark’s world. In my music library I took the time to change the artist name for every DT album and project to the uniform “Devin Townsend,” and this record is all the more tolerable if the same thing is done with the Sun Kil Moon tag.