10 October 2014

Sun Kil Moon - Benji


Ok - I will admit until recently I had no idea who Sun Kil Moon were or that they existed.  Until a few months ago, when the name of the band started to appear in news stories on some of the music websites I read and in magazines.  Usually with the words confrontational, fight and argument.  Now, I am not heard to relate tales about Mark Kozelek's fights with War On Drugs, his attitude to his audiences at various gigs around America or the difference between this act and his previous band, the Red House Painters (a band I did actually hear back in the late 90's).  But it is due to these reports that I am doing this blog, it made me curious as to what this band were about behind the attention grabbing arguments that are being relayed around the world.  It is a way to make a name for yourself, starting fights all over this sphere, it has made me have a look - now, it is time for the music to start talking....

Starting off the album is "Carissa", this is a tale about a cousin who dies in a fire and how the main person in the song deals with the death of a family member that they had lost touch with; the first thing that jumps out at me is the way that Kozelek delivers the vocals, it reminds me of Adam Duritz from Counting Crows mixed with Nick Cave and Johnny Cash.  It has a personal feeling about it, the emotions will be hard for some people to deal with, and it pulls on the heart strings quite hard in places to be honest.  It is a lengthy song as well, just shy of seven minutes so you know that it this gonna be a soul breaker from the start of the record.  "I Can't Live Without My Mother's Love" is the next song from the album, a tale of a small boy and his love for his mother.  This is another tale that brings the tears to the eyes for some people, if I had have heard this song just after my mom had passed on I am sure I would have been a puddle on the floor.  When you hear this song, make sure you are feeling at least ok because otherwise you will be an emotional wreck.  "Truck Driver" starts with another relative who dies in a fire - if this album gets any more depressing, it should come with a health warning.  The acoustic nature of the album makes this another solemn number, but there is a repetitive narrative to the first three songs which makes the numbers a little too similar after each airing.

"Dogs" is the fourth song on the album, the rest of the band seems to have been introduced at this point and it is a bit of a relief if I am honest.  This tale of teenage lust is dark and familiar to anyone who has been born with a pulse; it is driven by failed attempts for love/lust over the years.  When you get down to the bones of the song, it is seedy and it changes the mood of the record quite violently - at least it is not another number to down cleaning fluid to.  "Pray For Newtown" follows and it is a tale about a high school shooting that touches the heart of people.  The fact that this sort of song is being written at all is another aspect of tragedy to these sorts of events.  It is another powerful statement, it does not need any further words to be honest - just check the song out as anything I write about it will not compare to the song itself.  After this you have "Jim Wise", to be honest after the last number any song would struggle to follow that number.  But I enjoy the story telling behind this number about a jail bird that is currently behind bars; the music is a bit cheesy for my tastes, but the delivery is impeccable.  "I Love My Dad" follows on, it is a number about a son's love for his Dad; it is not in the same style as "I Can't Live Without My Mother's Love", it is much more funky (in a given sense of the word) and has another dark sense of humour.  You cannot help but smile at sections of this song, but I have to admit that the song goes on for a few beats too long.

However, the length of "I Love My Dad" is nothing compared to "I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same" which starts off with Kozelek's feeling about seeing a late night showing of the Led Zeppelin film, but then it goes about his attitude and reaction towards to lose of loved ones and friends.  Then the subject matter changes once again, about a childhood fight in the playground and the emotional effects on the singer after a one off fight, the learning of guitars compared to being a sports enthusiast and the grips of melancholy. Like a Led Zeppelin song, it goes on forever - over ten minutes in length; but somehow it feels fresh by the time you get to the end, not like a chore at all.  That said, it is a hard number to listen to and it took a few attempts for it to really sink in.  But it does remind me of songs from 'Led Zeppelin III' (our blog to that album cleverly linked here) and the passion and retro feeling of the song is incredible.  "Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes" is a strange commentary about the death of people and the strange cause of this world. This song is not as endearing as "I Watched....", but musically it is one of the most engaging of the album.  It has a dirty vibe that suits the subject matter; it is not a nice subject and deals with the path of life or death in places; yet another interesting piece for this album.  "Micheline" is the penultimate song, is another meandering piece which hits on different subjects and people who Mr Kozelek had known in his youth.  It feels similar to the rest of the album in that you feel as if you are listening to a conversation from Mr Kozelek, discussing matters and changing the subject very quickly.  It is not quite as engaging as other songs on here, but once again it is a lovely number.  Ending the album is "Ben's My Friend", the title and part of the song is about Mr Kozelek's friendship with Ben Gibbard from Death Cab For Cutie & The Postal Service, it seems to be more about the middle-age experenice and how it dealt with by Mr Kozelek.  It is in a different style to the album and you can tell it was the final track to be written for the album; but it is still an interesting ending to the album.

What I am finding hard to believe at the moment is how much different to the persona of Kozelek's musical leaning and playing compared to his attitude towards the world through his actions at points.  There is an anger which does not come across in his music to be honest, as this album is a really engaging record that will probably grow in stature over the years.  Whilst looking for information about the album I noted it has been added to the list of "Most Important Records Of The Decade So Far" by Pitchfork, now I am not too sure if that is truly the case with this album; it is a little too soon to give that sort of stuff for the album, it has only been out for eight months or so.  But I can see that as far as this year is concerned, it is one of the darkest records of the year, it is also a total surprise when compared to the rest of the stuff going on about this artist. There is a few moments that stretch a bit too long for my tastes (surprising it is not "I Watched....), but that is just down to my own personal preference.  Overall, I find this album to be incredible impressive. Just make sure when you listen to it that you have all the lights on and you are in a decent place, it will shine a light on some dark moments in a beautiful way.

9 out of ten - Almost perfect....almost

Top track - Pray For Newtown

You can purchase the album from Spotify here

You can visit the Sun Kil Moon website here (there is also a webstore here)

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

Here is a link for our Deezer users

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