Sun Kil Moon’s heartrendingly beautiful and strikingly personal album Benji is coming next month. The songs we’ve posted so far — “Richard Ramirez Died Today Of Natural Causes,” “Michelene,” and especially “Ben’s My Friend” — have revealed Mark Kozelek growing into the stream-of-consciousness songwriting he explored on 2012’s Among The Leaves and absolutely flourishing. But for all their arresting vulnerability, those songs aren’t even the best Benji has to offer. There’s a pair of consecutive songs in the middle of the album that absolutely destroys me, and one of them is out there in the open now.
As part of its Measure For Measure series, The New York Times recently premiered the understated story-song “I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same” along with an essay by Kozelek about its genesis. The lyrics tell the tale plainly enough: “I Watched The Film” is a gloriously detailed autobiographical portrait of a moody kid finding temporary solace at a screening of Led Zeppelin’s concert movie The Song Remains The Same, eventually turning to a career in music, but never quite shaking his melancholy. (“For 46 years now, I cannot break the spell/ I’ll carry it throughout my life and probably carry it to hell.”) It’s hard to imagine Kozelek communicating those sensations any more powerfully than he does in the song, but his piece in the Times adds richness to the experience, explaining how the song functions as a tribute to his late grandmother and 4AD Records founder Ivo Watts-Russell among others. Here’s how it begins:
If you grew up in the 1970s and you loved ’70s rock as much as I did, then there is a good chance you saw the Led Zeppelin concert film, “The Song Remains the Same.” The film documents a 1973 Zeppelin concert at Madison Square Garden and played in theaters throughout the late ’70s and after. It became an almost instant cult classic, bringing my favorite rock band ever to life, with only a trip to the local theater.
I first saw the movie at a mall in Canton, Ohio, when I was in seventh grade. I watched it again last year on cable in my apartment in San Francisco, and the same scenes that resonated with me back then still moved me: Jimmy Page playing the hurdy-gurdy at a lake, and the John Paul Jones dream sequence scene during “No Quarter.” It was a funny thing to realize that at 46 years old, I’m still in many ways the same person I was then.
There’s a lot more where that came from, so head to the NYT to read the essay and hear the song.
Benji‘s release date has been pushed back one week to 2/11 on Caldo Verde.