Mark Kozelek continues to provide us with an unending supply of aural ennui at its finest.
Several years back, formerly great singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek stumbled upon a recipe with which he could churn out an obscene number of releases annually on his own Caldo Verde imprint. By simply rambling off whatever seems to be in front of him – literally or figuratively – at the moment the record button is depressed, Kozelek has managed to churn out albums at a rate that would make Robert Pollard blush. And while both artists could certainly be considered formulaic and not the best of editors, Kozelek has taken things to a heretofore unseen level of patience testing. Even the most ardent of fans will find themselves hard-pressed to stick with his epic, linearly rambling style of word vomit.
This approach would theoretically make him ripe for parody, he’s jumped ahead of the game and cornered that market as well, releasing collections of “songs” that seem to be little more than curmudgeonly fuck-yous to those who’ve bothered to stick around to see what Kozelek comes up with next (do you care that he fell asleep trying to watch Manchester by the Sea again? (“Topo Gigio”)). Mark Kozelek with Ben Boyce and Jim White is his fifth(!) release of 2017, and indeed it would seem that he is quite content with squandering any and all good will he may have engendered over the past several decades with both Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon and solo work. “Some people have different objects on the back of their toilets/ Some have a toothbrush, maybe, or some hand soap or a tube of Crest,” he informs us on the, interminable 12-minute track, “Blood Test.” While Boyce and White vamp for the entirety of the track (hell, the entirety of the album for that matter; credit to both for keeping things borderline interesting), Kozelek just spouts whatever comes into his head at the moment, sounding like the worst free-style MC to ever grace the mic.
But that seems to be the point: he simply just doesn’t give a single flying fuck about what people think about what he’s up to these days and likes it that way. In this way, his entire output over the last several years seems a calculated response to the critical acclaim heaped upon Benji and its then-revelatory openness and candidly autobiographical details. Over subsequent releases under both Sun Kil Moon and solo (does it really matter anymore what name gets slapped on the cover?), he’s taken this idea of listing the most mundane details of the world in which we live and amplified it by a factor of 1,000,000.
“Some people believe in Bigfoot and the Loch Ness/ Some people believe in O.J. Simpson’s innocence/ Some people believe the future is in the hands of Mike Pence/ Some people believe Christmas is the birthday of a man named Jesus/ la la la la la, la la la la (repeat 2x)/ Some kids go to college and want to become a podiatrist/ Some kids don’t go to college at all and strive to be famous artists.”
I hope reading those few lines from the aforementioned “Blood Test” is as tiresome and dull as it is to listen to all 12 minutes of it. And so does Mark Kozelek. Nearly three quarters of the way through, the groove breaks into something lighter, airier, and Kozelek begins singing. Sort of. It’s still the same rambling approach, but it’s at least not nearly as monotonous as the preceding nine minutes. Little consolation, this, as there’s still more than 90 minutes of more of the same on tap. Nearly everything on Mark Kozelek with Ben Boyce and Jim White follows the format laid out on “Blood Test,” each more exhausting than the last.
But if you approach the album as little more than a piss take, it can be quite amusing. Take, for instance, “House Cat,” which views the current shit storm raining down on the world from the perspective of the titular animal. Taking note of all the horrible horribleness we humans have to deal with now on a daily basis, Kozelek-as-house-cat offers this, “When you’re a cat you get to sleep all day and say, “Fuck all that”/ I’m a house cat so I get to say, “Fuck all you and fuck all that.” If only it were that simple. Look, the point is, with Kozelek’s current output now you know exactly what you’re going to get and you either eat it up or hate it; there is no middle ground, and that’s just the way he wants it. Because of this, it’s very nearly impossible to critically or objectively approach an album like Mark Kozelek with Ben Boyce and Jim White; you either hate it, you don’t or, like Kozelek and his house cat alter ego, you just don’t give a fuck. More often than not it’s in the listener’s best interest to ascribe to the latter and, if you want to check it out, go for it. If not, you’re not missing anything of note. But then again nothing shared by anyone these days is really all that noteworthy given the sheer volume of shit assaulting our senses every second of every day. Maybe we’d all be better off just taking Kozelek’s approach and just say fuck all and do whatever.
So in the spirit of that: Mark Kozelek with Ben Boyce and Jim White is playing and the sun is out and I’m wondering what I should do this afternoon and if I want to bother with lunch or dinner or watching the rest of Mindhunter or if I should wait for my wife to get home and not be a dick and watch ahead or maybe all the books I’m supposed to be reading and all the music I’m supposed to be listening to because I said I would when I thought it was a good idea to and I’m not really sure anymore because it’s overwhelming when you start taking stock of everything facing you down and I probably shouldn’t’ve fucked with my meds ahead of trying to listen to this album spending 90 minutes of my life that I can never have back but it’s cool because the sun is out and the wind is blowing the trees outside my window and their leaves are scattering across my lawn that I mowed last night and these words are becoming increasingly meaningless and monotonous and dull as fuck so I’m probably just gonna start typing gibberish and go like hasfjksdf asfnjk asdfinm asdgieiboo asfsd;jbo asdflhbboasdgl awoerweoirhgbkjb…..
Mark Kozelek continues to provide us with an unending supply of aural ennui at its finest. Or worst. I don’t know. Who cares? He sure doesn’t.