On his latest Sun Kil Moon LP, This Is My Dinner, Mark Kozelek shares unexpected adventures
There are certain artists whose most notable distinction happens to lie in their ability to shock and surprise.
Though they might be much admired for their creative conceits, the basis for any buzz is provided by the routine unexpected encounter, what they’ll offer the audience next. Of course, that’s the mark of any truly exceptional artist, be it David Byrne, Madonna, Lady Gaga or, for that matter, a band as routinely regimented as the Rolling Stones. No big deal really, except for the fact that any new offering from these artists is a big deal. Anticipation lies in what their next venture will bring.
No, we’re talking here about those musicians that are truly unpredictable, artists whose every effort isn’t simply a progression from past precepts, but instead something truly strange and seismic. Granted, the Beatles once elicited the same reaction following the pop impression they made early on. Albums like Rubber Soul, Revolver and ultimately Sgt. Pepper become genuine revelations as far as fans were concerned, shattering stereotypes and creating a cultural ripple in the process. Yet, at the same, there was an expectation of the unexpected, and in time, the results came to be accepted as part of the Fabs; artistic evolution.
Best then to cite examples of more unsettling artists — Frank Zappa, Laurie Anderson, Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits, and, uh, Kanye West, among them, individuals who thrived on upending any predetermined pattern. Of course there are others in that group as well. However, any list of musicians with a musical mantra based on upsetting convention and turning the table on the tried and true would have to include this singular assortment as a start.
It seems now that Mark Kozelek is qualified to be listed in that company as well. Admittedly though, any change in tack would seem to be a recent revelation, one that now originates with the oddly obtuse This Is My Dinner. (Even the title is preternaturally provocative!) Despite whatever handle he has operated under in the past — Sun Kil Moon, Red House Painters or simply his given name – Kozelek could once be counted on to offer up a series of naked narratives that alternated between melancholy and menace. His melodies were often obtuse, but the word “incendiary” could rarely be considered an apt description. If Kozelek’s music was challenging in any way, it likely had to do with the fact that it tended to lull the listener to a more dreamy domain.
Consequently, This Is My Dinner is remarkably weird by comparison to those earlier efforts and just about anything else these days. It mainly consists of a series of rambling, oftentimes weary-sounding travelogues that detail the offstage happenstance that accompanied him on a European tour. The music functions mostly as aural embellishment, somber soundscapes meant to underscore Kozelek’s nocturnal narratives. An added bonus disc proves even more bizarre, an homage that laments the passing of the late David Cassidy. Yes, David Cassidy. What sort of connection Kozelek felt to Cassidy is anyone’s guess, but despite the sonorous tones, it is heartfelt. A twisted take on the Partridge Family’s sunny staple “Come On Get Happy” caps the creation.
That’s not only weird, but wacky as well. Welcome, Mr. Kozelek, to the realm of reinvention.