By Lane Moore, Contributor
[Caldo Verde; 2018]
Key tracks: “This Is My Dinner”, “Candles”, “Chapter 87 of He”
Occasionally, an album leaves me pondering “What the hell was that last hour and 30 minutes?” Sun Kil Moon’s This Is My Dinner is one of those albums. While their earlier efforts, such as Benji, are like a candle flame – emphasizing the fragility of life and its ability to be extinguished in a moment – This Is My Dinner’s style is colloquial to the point of near-nonsense. The instrumentation is jazzy, atmospheric and intriguing, but much of the narrative’s delivery resembles the ramblings of an old man. Maybe this is the product of Mark Kozelek’s “middle-aged lonesome,” or perhaps he just enjoys pursuing tangents about candles and washing socks. Either way, the parallelism and interconnectedness of This Is My Dinner are its key features.
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This parallel structure is not blatant disarray. It leaves room for Kozelek’s halfway spoken-word technique, which is the perfect mate for the captivating and simplistic instrumentation behind him. Generally, each song’s main idea can be traced back to Mark Kozelek’s travels through Europe, especially Scandinavia. He repeatedly makes statements such as “The Swedes are smarter and more organized than Americans” (“Candles”) and “I’ve traveled all around the world and Norwegians have the most beautiful eyes” (“This Is My Dinner”).
Yes, these seem like normal thoughts a musician might have while on tour. However, anything that does not relate to traveling on This Is My Dinner is intentional and conversational nonsense. On “Candles”, Kozelek rants about refusing to eat reindeer for an entire two minutes. He also routinely mentions boxing, candles, his favorite songs and a woman coughing, but nothing quite matches the majesty of Kozelek’s dialogue about his socks on “Soap for Joyful Hands”. He is “very sentimental about [his] socks,” and he really wants us to know.
These pervasive and out-of-pocket thoughts are meant to bring the concept of touring to life, which is why 50 percent of the content on This Is My Dinner sounds like a fever dream Kozelek experiences on an airplane. On multiple occasions, he references the plane seat he sits in and bluntly explains that many of the lyrics were written while traveling. The boundary between the fever dream and reality becomes so blurry by the time that Kozelek exclaims, “We’re gonna play this song right now! / It’s called Come On Get Happy!” one might not even realize that “Chapter 87 of He”, is literally Mark Kozelek reading chapter 87 of John Connolly’s “he”. This Is My Dinner is certainly a concept record, but the concept is masked by the disorder induced by its own poetic stylings.
This Is My Dinner exists inside of itself, like a time loop with recurring events and themes. There are no clear choruses or bridges – only dense stanzas of detached narratives which repeat endlessly. Each song’s structure is cemented by the rotation between thoughts of traveling and recounted memories and daydreams. There is no in-between or interwoven feeling on this album. There is only the absurd and creative energy of a group who, as usual, wish to bring something new to life. After this hour and a half, only one thing is clear: Mark Kozelek really likes his socks.