Jesu/Sun Kil Moon – 30 Seconds To The Decline of Planet Earth – Album Review by Killian Laher
Mark Kozelek’s latest album, a collaboration with Jesu arrives less than 3 months after the car crash of Common As Light. This is also his second album with Jesu in 16 months! Mercifully there are a mere nine songs to wade through this time. The temptation with this is to review the act of writing a review for this album, as that would be analogous to Kozelek’s writing process. He doesn’t get a free pass just because he has written hundreds of heartbreakingly beautiful songs in his career. This album’s brand of self-referential diary-style lyrics over mostly not very interesting electronica is, however merely a dull affair rather than the confrontationally bad nature of his last album.
Much of the music here was composed by Justin Broadrick of Jesu, and it’s mainly not very engaging electronica. The SEVENTEEN minute Wheat Bread is pretty dull to say the least. The “Hey Mark” passage kind of sums it up, but essentially it’s a 17 minute song about the various types of ‘fuck you’ (yes, really), with an interlude about last year’s Sings Favourites album. The Greatest Conversation Ever In The History of the Universe features quite bright, upbeat electronica, but Kozelek’s bored sounding singing about his memories of Lou Reed doesn’t really gel with the music. The anti-Michael Jackson diatribe, He’s Bad, is laughable with its lyrics “blah blah blah blah blah bla-blah, woah woah woah… he’s bad, and he’s dead and I’m glad.”
When he allows the guitars in the results are a distinct improvement. Bombs has pretty terrible lyrics (his Holland-centred “bikes, bikes, bikes, bikes” rant is one of several truly awful lyrical moments) but a soft, creepy electric guitar motif runs through it which works much better than the previous five tracks. Improbably, the guitar-led Twenty Something is quite listenable (musically) despite the character writing of a young author named Johnny St Lethal, about whom Kozelek tells a tale that has to be true about the singer paying this young author 15 Norwegian kroner to swap places with a pretty girl at one of his shows.
A hallmark of Kozelek’s prettier songs was the tenderness of their singer, which is now virtually gone, replaced by this present day, foul mouthed version with a bad attitude. And it is this persona who sings “fuck the media” and about social media “ricocheting hatred across the planet” in Hello Chicago, before quoting the Youngbloods and The Walker Brothers and finally lapsing into yet another fan letter read aloud, which has been a hallmark of his recent albums. The album’s least ugly moment is saved till last on A Dream of Winter. It’s introduced by some very pretty, intricate guitar picking before Kozelek’s vocals join the mix, where he finds the time to sing refreshingly simple lines about how “I hope these days pass slowly”. It’s almost… moving.
The closest reference point for this album in his back catalogue is 2013’s collaboration with Jimmy Lavalle which also featured heavy use of electronics. By comparison, 30 Seconds… falls a fair degree short. Time to take a break from the recording studio Mark.
1. You Are Me And I Am You
2. Wheat Bread
3. Needles Disney
4. The Greatest Conversation Ever In The History of the Universe
5. He’s Bad
7. Twenty Something
8. Hello Chicago
9. A Dream of Winter