By Eli Schoop, Copy Editor
[Caldo Verde; 2017]
Key Tracks: “God Bless Ohio”, “Philadelphia Cop”
Mark Kozelek knows he’s an old man. Common as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood is his statement regarding that fact, and it’s a doozy. At just over two hours, Kozelek is determined to expose every part of his life in a Joycean method, using words instead of just simple melodies. It’s a play that totally worked on Benji because of his grasping at life events that affect us all: death, disease, crime, etc. On his newest LP, rather than sticking to a formula he rambles deliriously, with mixed results.
He’s particularly Ohioan, speaking in the labored, blunt style that so many from this state use. His regional ties caress the love letter to the state in the opener, a slice of Americana immediately recognizable as a Sun Kil Moon song. Yet the rest of the album is fleeting in place, ranging from his current home in California to Las Vegas, New Orleans and even across the Atlantic over in Portugal. It’s nice to see he’s rediscovering the wonder in his life after all these travels, however, most of the tracks are a rambling mess. That suits Kozelek just fine, but when you make music this polarizing, the consequences will sour a lot of listeners.
Common as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood is very much a test of patience. Kozelek seems to be hinging on the idea that people are really interested in hearing about his life. This might be a bit conceited, but plenty of singer-songwriters have tread this path before. But to be so direct and simple about it without any sort of finesse carries a languidity not preferable for someone you’d have to be invested in. One gets the sense that this is Kozelek’s dementia album contextually, there’s very little to go back to.
That being said, if you’re a big Sun Kil Moon fan, there’s a lot to like. From the versatile musicality displayed to the multi-hour runtime, it could be construed as a microcosm of Mark Kozelek’s career. He’s a controversial figure to say the least, and Common as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood fits that image to a tee. If he wanted to compress all his ideas into a more digestible package, then the record would be much improved, but it’s dubious that Mark Kozelek would ever take the beaten path.