What. A. Day.
And it’s barely past noon.
Already, I have run to the hospital to switch cars with Kelly who ran over something on the highway on the way to work and now it has a puddle of something underneath it. So I’ve zipped that to the dealership for inspection and then back to the office. I guess the good news is that if it’s just condensation as the car technician suggests, there will be a school girl uniform and a can of whipped cream in it for me later on.
Fingers crossed anyway.
This is the debut release by the former Red House Painter’s front man Mark Kozelek (released in 2003), who composed all of the lyrics and music on this album.
The entire album sounds like the soundtrack to one incredibly long closing credits sequence of a movie with an intensely bittersweet, sentimental ending. Here’s the thing that must be made clear, though: it’s all really quite beautiful. The music doesn’t vary much, and Kozelek’s voice certainly doesn’t, regardless of the subject matter of his lyrics. Nonetheless, the album has an almost elemental flow to it, like a dark, subterranean river – clean, colorless, and unchanging. And the songs are virtuously stoic Americana – all shimmery guitars, measured tempos, malevolent moods, and wandering melodies.
If there’s anything I come to admit about Sun Kil Moon (ie. Kozelek), it’s his amazing wordplay. The album’s wistful opener, ‘Glenn Tipton‘ (one of five songs on the album named after actual people, three of which being boxers), serves as a testament to this desire to recover the most modest of moments from one’s past. In the song, Kozelek reminisces about debating over boxing legends (“Cassius Clay was hit more than Sonny Liston”) and Judas Priest guitarists (“Some like K.K. Downing and some Glenn Tipton”), while mirroring these discussions to memories of his own dad watching Clark Gable movies on TV. This might just be the loneliest song ever written.
On the stately Neil Young-influenced rocker ‘Salvador Sanchez’, Kozelek tells the story of Sanchez, a boxer who died in a fatal car accident at 23; whose story is told, yet again, on the acoustic string-laden stomp of the album’s closure, ‘Pancho Villa‘. The effect of this repeated conflation of iconic ghosts from the past with Kozelek’s own personal narratives is remarkably moving.
On the blissfully tender ‘Gentle Moon‘, the calming strum of acoustic guitars is blanketed within the shimmer of a brilliant electric guitar melody, all the while twinkling xylophone notes sparkle and luscious sweeping strings color Kozelek’s frail tenor. While on the obligatory 14-minute psych-rock epic, ‘Duk Koo Kim‘ (another boxer), a fuzzy pensive electric guitar motif gives way to the valiant insistent strums of an army of mandolins, only to be draped by a rainstorm of solitary acoustic guitar notes.
All sense of time and stability are lost; ‘Ghost of the Great Highway’ comes to symbolize the mechanics of actual memories, where people, places, discussions, events, and disarmingly ordinary and average moments are jumbled longingly together with little sense of any historic time-line outside of one’s own experiences.
Like an old, dog-eared photograph or a faded love letter, This is album is powerful, in its own soft, subdued way, meaning you just don’t simply listen to a Sun Kil Moon album, you experience it.