Review Summary: Enjoy your dinner, Mark.
Mark Kozelek is a very interesting man, who lives an interesting life. Much more interesting than your life or mine. That's what makes Sun Kil Moon records so captivating. You get to see life from a perspective of a moderately successful musician, who has some crazy stories to tell. But it's not just the stories themselves, but it is the manner in which Mark tells these stories that is so engaging. This is the case in the bands latest release 'This Is My Dinner'. Now if you are expecting a Sun Kil Moon album like 'Benji' or 'Ghost of the Great Highway' then I have some bad news for you, This album is nothing like them. But that doesn't make this a bad record by any means.
Mark's storytelling is as captivating as it was in 'Benji'. The only thing that this album is missing is the musical diversity that some of the quintessential Sun Kil Moon albums have. A lot of the songs on here lack really any musical change ups, and feature the same guitar licks and keys throughout the whole song. That isn't necessarily a bad thing however, as the instrumentation creates a mellow and laid-back environment for the subject matter.
Take the first song 'This Is Not Possible' for example. The song is slow-paced, and has a very nice and smooth feel to it. It consists of a groovy bass-line, very subtle plays on the keyboard and some nice guitar licks. This goes on as Mark talks about his experience in Frankfurt, Germany. Nothing too exciting is going on here and this track may bore the average listener. But something about hearing Mark go one about how a venue wouldn't let him and his band inside or how he stayed at this really nice hotel makes for a joyful listen. Again it isn't necessarily the stories themselves that are interesting, but the manner in which Mark tells them. Mark's engaging personality seams throughout this record. It kind of feels like listening to your crazy uncle tell stories about his past, with the accompaniment of a band.
Now any Sun Kil Moon fan will know that Mark is not shy when it comes to revealing personal details of his life. Like in the title track, he talks about how this girl he met at a show was jerking him off and her angry boyfriend came after him looking for blood. This track is a roller-coaster of a song, as the subject matter is all over the place. Mark goes from talking about hooking up with a girl to rushing home on a plane to see his dying cat. Many people will just see this as rambling, but it's just Mark being Mark.
One of my gripes with this album is that it doesn't really disassociate itself from one of Mark's solo releases. If I didn't know any better I would of thought this was just another Mark Kozelek solo album, not a Sun Kil Moon album. It doesn't have the instrumental diversity that 'Benji' has, or the intellectual and thought provoking lyrics as 'April', or beautiful melodic music like 'The Ghost of the Great Highway' has. Not that the band needs to recreate these classic albums, but in terms of diversity the album leaves much to be desired. It almost seems like Mark isn't trying as hard as he used to. Most of the songs on here are also incredibly lengthily and would be a bother for those with short attention spans.
The track 'Candles' however does offer beautiful piano playing, and 'Linda Blair' has an unexpected change in tempo and gets heavier toward the end of the song as Mark goes on about his love for bands like AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. Unfortunately the album ends on a low note. The song 'Chapter 87 of He' is pretty much just Mark reading a book from an author named John Connolly as the band plays along. If I was at a Sun Kil Moon album and saw this, I would probably ask for my money back. To which Mark would probably promptly tell me to go f**k myself. But that's what's awesome about Mark. He does what he wants to and when he wants to, and you can either love him or hate him for it.
Despite it's many flaws, the album is still enjoyable and Mark's storytelling is still engaging as always. It definitely doesn't stand anywhere near the bands best efforts, but as long as Mark continues to venture the world and tell us about it. Sun Kil Moon fans will always be there to listen.