Imagine, if you will, that you have diarrhea.
Maybe you ate something you shouldn’t have; maybe you are coming down with the stomach flu. How you ended up this way isn’t important.
Imagine that you are pressed against the seat of your toilet—bracing yourself, really—as hot, brown liquid is expelled from your bottom, along with large, loose chunks of excrement. Imagine the violence and force with which it hits the water in the toilet. So violent, and so forceful, actually, that it splashes dirty toilet water back up, soaking your bare ass.
Imagine all of this. The discomfort it causes you. The sounds. The smells. The wincing on your face as it all happens.
Now, imagine that you are no longer the person with diarrhea. Imagine that singer, and songwriter, Mark Kozelek, has it instead.
And imagine that, instead of sitting on a toilet, his bare ass is hovering mere centimeters above your ear.
Mark Kozelek is using your ear as a toilet.
All of my anecdotes and jokes have already been used in the past, so this graphic analogy is the only way I can think to properly describe what occurs on Kozelek’s latest opus—a DOUBLE ALBUM released under the Sun Kil Moon moniker. Cumbersomely titled Common As Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood, the two-hour effort is so bad, just so god damn dreadful, that it’s the kind of thing that could be used when torturing suspected terrorists.
People would confess to crimes they didn’t even commit if it meant they wouldn’t have to listen to this album anymore.
While listening, I was ready to scream “I DID 9/11 AND BENGHAZI WAS MY FAULT” with the hopes that my iTunes would unexpectedly crash and I would be temporarily relieved of the horrors of having to listen to this garbage fire of a record.
Continuing in the same vein as Kozelek’s critically lauded Benji and its slightly less well received follow up Universal Themes, Common As Light finds him growing more and more comfortable in his role of the comedian who has told one too many jokes, has overstayed his welcome, and is now testing the goodwill of his audience. Once an actual writer and singer of songs, he no longer sings—he croaks, and he no longer writes lyrics, but rather barks out what could be journal entries, observations, or maybe whatever random thoughts happen to be floating around in his head.
Spanning sixteen tracks—the shortest is roughly five minutes, the longest is over twelve—Kozelek shows he is in desperate need of learning how to self-edit, though one is doubtful he will ever learn that skill. He enthralls listeners with songs featuring such original titles as “Sarah Lawrence College Song,” “Vague Rock Song,” and “Seventies TV Show Theme Song.” If those weren’t a strong indicator of what you are in for with Common As Light, I’ll spell it out for you:
There is absolutely no focus and no point to Common As Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood.
Recorded with former Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelly once again keeping time, Kozelek said his goal with this album was to play instruments that he was unfamiliar with—so, alongside all the very similar sounding, rather lifeless rhythm tracks, you’ll hear him futzing and improvising with synthesizers and bass guitars. These lengthy, rudimentary jams are then cut down with the assistance of his engineer, and then the “lyrics” are delivered on top of them.
“This is my vague rock song,” Kozelek mumbles. “Everybody sing along.” He manages to keep this up for seven minutes, occasionally interjecting something else—at one point he mentions going to the gym and lifting weights.
“I know this song sounds like a 70s TV show theme,” he grouses. “Maybe because me and the guy who are playing it are 49 and 53.”
Kozlek’s musings aren’t limited to his observations on middle-age, or what he has done with his day. He also touches on hot button issues and current events, like the nightclub shooting in Orlando,as he does in “Bergen to Trondheim.” “That fucker killed 50 people,” he bluntly states. “That’s some fucked up shit.”
I think it’s safe to say that Common As Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood barely resembles music.
It’s more masturbatory pontification that fails to climax, underscored by a monotonous and insipid soundtrack. It’s the kind of thing that didn’t actually have to happen—like, time, money, and energy was spent on this, and it shouldn’t have been, because this is a complete fucking waste.
Common As Light is out now digitally, and will be available on CD on February 24th, via Kozelek’s own Caldo Verde imprint.
Kevin Krein is a Minnesota based writer, and has been operating the award winning music blog Anhedonic Headphones since January 2013. For nearly as long, he’s been contributing to Bearded Gentlemen; and for nearly as long, he wrote “The Bearded Life” column for the Southern Minn Scene magazine. Since the summer of 2017, he began contributing “The Column of Disquiet” for The Next Ten Words. His writing has also appeared in The Wagazine, and in River Valley Woman. He is a vegan, a friend to all animals, and a huge jerk toward most people.