Mark Kozelek

For someone with such a painfully distinctive style and voice, Mark Kozelek’s songwriting sure has evolved a lot over the years since the early days of Red House Painters. In recent years the slowcore founding father’s transformation has been especially evident, and nowhere is that truer than “Ben’s My Friend,” the closing track from the forthcoming Sun Kil Moon album Benji. Kozelek has always leaned toward the plainspoken as a lyricist — my favorite song of his, 2003′s “Glenn Tipton,” is basically a series of detail-laden short stories from a serial killer’s point of view — but in recent years he’s taken a turn for the hyperliteral and autobiographical, with songs such as “Sunshine In Chicago” functioning as play-by-play travelogues. That’s truer than ever on “Ben’s My Friend.” As with the other songs we’ve heard from Benji, especially “Richard Ramirez Died Today Of Natural Causes,” Kozelek’s adopted the syllable-cramming cadence of his trusted muse Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock, but this time out Kozelek’s traded Brock’s quirky, effects-laden guitar squeals for saxophone-infused midtempo lounge music out of Destroyer’s Kaputt. It exists in an entirely different sonic universe from the stone-faced melodrama of Red House Painters’ “Have You Forgotten” or even the spare acoustic plucking of Sun Kil Moon’s Modest Mouse covers album. There are a lot of ways to sing a sad song with an acoustic guitar!

Kozelek’s latest sonic realm is the background for a story about Kozelek going to see the Postal Service. He feels old amongst a crowd of 8,000 twentysomethings, and tinges of jealousy spring up when he thinks back to when he first met Ben Gibbard at a festival in Spain in 2000, when his band was outdrawing Gibbard’s. Hearing a line like “The other night, I saw the Postal Service/ Ben’s my friend, but getting there was the worst” in a song rather than an interview is the indie rock equivalent of Curb Your Enthusiasm, an inside look at the relational strains and tensions in a world of a most of us rarely glimpse. Somehow, though, I’d be willing to wager the frustrated and wistful feelings Kozelek bares here are a lot more true-to-life than a fictionalized Larry David farce. Stream this strange and beautiful song below.

Benji is out 2/4 via Caldo Verde.

Comments (12)
  1. Is mark turning into a thinking mans Wesley Willis?

    • nah, he doesn’t say ‘shoot me in the ass’ all that much here.

    • wow, lots of down votes, I guess no ones from chicago or knows wesley’s music. Half of his songs were “I went to the metro to see yaddy yadda.” The two bigger singles in the past year detail concert experiences similar to the late, great Wesley Willis. If you only know the dumb fratboy songs go ahead and downvote, if you know his hundreds of songs about going to or holding concerts, well ya know.

  2. This is just wonderful.

  3. More like Sun Kil Swoon…

  4. Oh man, being Ben Gibbard’s friend would be the worst. Can you imagine? Trying to stay awake during the Death Cab documentary, because he’s sitting right next to you. Meeting Zooey for the first time, looking into her glassy eyes and knowing THAT wasn’t going to last. Having to meet Ben in the food court after one of his performances with the Twilight: New Moon Hot Topic Mall Tour. It goes on and on.

    I’m just kidding. I wish Ben Gibbard was my friend.

  5. The words blue crab cakes have never sounded so beautiful. Really love the way Mark’s songwriting has evolved, he’s growing into middle age exactly the way a musician should.

  6. The banality and beauty of life

  7. Alternate title “Benny Was A Friend Of Mine” was scrapped early

  8. Oh hey, I ate at Perry’s for lunch during my interview for my current job. I got a Reuben, though. There’s not that much sports bar shit there.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post, reply to, or rate a comment.

%s1 / %s2