Benji by Sun Kil Moon

Sun Kil Moon – Benji

So you want to write lyrics young Padawan?  Here’s your options:

  1. Write something so vague so that listener can insert whatever meaning they want - “We all live in a tan submersible”.
  2. Write something so universal that you can bet your face (as most people have one of those) that the listener will connect with it – “Oooh my face.  I have a face.  La la la [shift up a key]. Faaaaaacccce”.
  3. Write a personal story so captivating that the listener frankly wouldn’t care if it was accompanied by a band of muppets on kazoos.  The reward is in the words.

Sun Kil Moon’s sixth album – Benji – is crammed full of (3)…without the muppets.  This is a deeply personal album from Mark Kozelek that easily avoids the requirement of you either having to know or care about Mark Kozelek.  The album opens with “Carissa”, a song about his second cousin who dies in a freak aerosol can accident.  Random – yup.  Strange – true.  What’s stranger is that his Uncle died in exactly the same way (assuming the stories are true then members of the Kozelek family – put down the aerosol cans).

Other family members get a mention.  There’s one for Mum/Mom – “I can’t live without my Mother’s love” – featuring Will Oldham (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy) which based on the title has “skip” written all over it but is actually a really tender confession about her importance in his life.  Ah combining strategy (2) and (3)!  He’s such a show-off.  “I love my Dad” doesn’t go straight for the heart strings but does paint the picture of a man you wouldn’t mind having a beer with.  It also provokes a few sniggers along the way – “when I was five I came home from Kindergarten crying cos they sat me next to an albino”.  His Dad explains that people come in all shades and sizes and sticks on “They only Come Out at Night” by The Edgar Winter Group.

Other tracks such as “Pray for Newtown” and “Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes” concern moments that “mark time and make us pause”.  There’s no attempt to make sense of what is fundamentally senseless, rather just an expression of their impact.

Yes expect melancholy but it’s not all doom and gloom.  Far from it… ok so there is a great track – “Jim Wise” – about a failed suicide attempt after a mercy killing…er.. The track “Dogs” is an account of sexual conquests that lists past loves and sprinkles in some lessons learned – “when you give that first stinger, your the one who gets stung”…”when you pant like a dog getting into some one”.  See that one’s cheerier.

Overall the subjects may get a little “dense” but I found the album really uplifting overall (there is sax solo for Christ’s sake) and worth the many repeat plays I gave it.  I dare you to listen to the last track (below) and not sing “blue crap cakes” or “sports bar shit”.

…Oh I forgot (4) – the Internets.