Kozelek has given up even the slightest pretense of songwriting.
Perhaps it’s some sort of Dadaist commentary on our modern social compulsion to share every single insignificant detail of every waking moment of every otherwise-uninteresting hour of each and every dull and mundane day. Who really cares what you ate, who you had drinks with, what you’re reading/listening to, where you took your vacation, how great your most recent bowel movement may have been? We, as individuals, seem to care a great deal about these things when they pertain to us specifically. We keep tabs on our friends’ lives in equal measure to have something to talk about, be jealous of and secretly hate on. In other words, we have become a society built on narcissism, rewarding those who manage the most narcissistic traits with television shows, book deals, albums, podcasts, movies and all manner of other show business-related media.
For those who manage the greatest acts of narcissism, we throw money, time and attention their way, all the while wishing we could somehow manage the same. “How is what I just ate that much different from what [insert random-ass star’s name here] just had? Why didn’t anyone like my picture of the EXACT SAME THING and 3.5 million people liked his/hers?!” That’s an excellent question: Why does anyone give a fuck about such mundane details? It’s been scientifically proven to hinder our own pursuit of happiness, getting caught up in the comings and goings of others, so why do we constantly put ourselves in a position to feel shitty about our own lives and covet the manufactured lives of those popular culture somehow deems worthy of our attention?
For nearly everything he has released under either his own name or the Sun Kil Moon moniker in the past half decade or so, Mark Kozelek has taken this idea to the extreme. He already knows he has a rabid fanbase willing to scoop up anything and everything he puts out (just look at how quickly vinyl copies of his albums sell out and how they are turned around just as quickly for exorbitant sums on Discogs and eBay), so, like a Kardashian or Trumpian figure, he knows he has a captive, blindly devoted audience. This is My Dinner pushes this to the extreme.
Kozelek here has given up even the slightest pretense of songwriting in favor of long, rambling monologues, the majority of which stretch to 10 minutes or more. It’s the “musical” equivalent of Steve Carell’s Brick Tamland claiming love for things he sees in the room with him at that particular moment (carpet, desk, lamp, etc.). Set it to a gently meandering backing track performed by competent musicians (all of whom will remain nameless and otherwise unacknowledged because, hell, a job is a job) and you’ve got the bulk of This is My Dinner. It’s not even worth delving into the subject matter of each extended rant as it would simply be playing into Kozelek’s game. The mere fact that this album is getting any sort of attention simply provides further cause for him to continue down this ludicrous path.
“This is My Dinner” finds him wandering off on a series of tangents, ranging from gun violence in America to how “Norway does Christmas right” and every imaginable point in between. Similarly, both “Linda Blair” (complete with Linda Blair-as-Regan guttural growling that goes on far longer than need be) and “David Cassidy” (“David Cassidy was so cool that I read his autobiography / It’s called Come on Get Happy and I recommend it highly”) offer nothing of substance beyond Kozelek’s masterful ability to wander aimlessly for extended periods of time, waxing rhapsodic on whatever germ of a thought enters his brain at that exact moment.
So what’s the point? It’s clear he doesn’t care what he puts out or slaps his name on. Why should we care? From now on, we may well be best served to simply ignore him. It’s not hard, as made painfully clear by This is My Dinner. Do you care to waste 90 minutes (!) of your life listening to Kozelek sing-speak the events of his day, songs that made him hard as a teenager, classic rock songs he loves and classic rock bands he loathes (Steely Dan and The Eagles, natch) and all the other mundane shit that happens while he’s off touring Europe and seeing some of the greatest cultural and artistic achievements ever created.
Hopefully some day in the not-too-distant future Kozelek will announce that he has, indeed, been fucking with us all along and that he can look back and consider his Dadaist period a rousing success. But since that is likely not to be the case given how crotchety and unnecessarily confrontational he has become in his old age, there’s a far better chance that he just doesn’t care and will continue to disappoint listeners who have stuck with him for more than 20 years only to become the butt of his own personal joke. Instead, I suggest, to paraphrase one of his more infamous outbursts, he shut the fuck up and we unfollow.