Lunch in the Park is a tough-to-stomach, badly-mixed album that sees Sun Kil Moon ill-advisedly embrace for electro-ambient leanings.
There’s a lesson to be learned from the 2014 Sun Kil Moon album Benji, albeit not one that has anything to do with mortality, fate, or the various other mysteries of life that project’s mastermind, Mark Kozelek, ruminates on over the course of the album’s 61 minutes. No, this lesson became apparent in the years following Benji, as Kozelek toured that record with an increasing chip on his shoulder, lashing out at fans, critics, and other musicians on stage and on record. A strange tension persisted in these few years, with festivals and blogs continuing to insist that Sun Kil Moon was a vital contemporary act, even as Kozelek’s behavior became more obviously regressive and sexist. It seemed as if the singer-songwriter paid music tastemakers back for their briefly successful (and at least a little opportunistic) attempt at resuscitating his career with only contempt and spite. Though this likely ascribes too much intent on Kozelek’s part: In reality, those who had rushed to prop him up likely did so knowing what he was about.
Over here, in 2021, Kozelek and Sun Kil Moon have been removed from cultural conversation, and coverage of his music absent from mainstream outlets. This happened at some point in the midst of a slew of increasingly insular, lengthy diary/spoken-word albums that completely killed his post-Benji momentum even before the sexual misconduct allegations that emerged last August. Kozelek subsequently put off releasing new music for most of 2020, but eventually (maybe inevitably) he returned — and put out 2 albums in quick succession via his own Caldo Verde Records label. This second and most recent release, Lunch in the Park, has all the turmoil and ugliness you’d expect, but presented in the form of placid reflection and musing. Once again favoring amelodic, talk-sing vocal stylings and un-poeticized, stream-of-conscious lyrics, Kozelek seems to at least want to address the heaviest scandals of the past couple years, but instead ends up taking aim at just about everything else. A baldly reactionary album, Lunch in the Park finds Kozelek sneering at liberals who want to tear down confederate statues (right after they cashed stimulus checks signed by Trump, he suspects) and bemoaning the rallying cry of “Black Lives Matter,” insisting that he’s well aware as a fan of boxing and blues music (he then proceeds to list famous black people for 2 minutes). Koz’ gets hung up on that stuff for a while, eventually reading off statistics about “black on black” crime, in between shouting out movie quotes pulled from AFI’s top 100 and crooning about how much he loves his wife who he cheated on a lot. Some of this is done in an odd, rhythmic cadence that could almost be described as rapping; indeed, the production here is less guitar-driven and more electronic-ambient, in a way that suggests a bizarre hip-hop influence of dubious sincerity. This is a pathetic album, badly mixed; Kozelek has clearly come to overvalue spontaneity while only narrowing his perspective.
Published as part of Album Roundup — February 2021 | Part 2.