Jesu / Sun Kil Moon

30 Seconds to the Decline of Planet Earth

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Mark Kozelek has been pumping out albums in an increasingly rapid succession during the 2010s, and by this point, fans should be pretty certain what they're getting into when they hit play. His songs have become increasingly literal and observational, and while he generally sings his thoughts, sometimes forcing them into rhymes, he's prone to slip into extended spoken monologues. Judging by its title, 30 Seconds to the Decline of Planet Earth (his second collaboration with Jesu in little over a year) seems like it's going to be an excessively bleak, overtly political album. He does express his frustration with the way the world is going on a few occasions, and as on his previous album, he blames society for not paying attention to important issues and letting things like a Trump presidency become reality. Overall, though, Kozelek generally seems much calmer and more content on this album than on his previous few releases. Unlike Jesu/Sun Kil Moon or Universal Themes, there aren't any heavy, grungy guitars on this one, and he doesn't seem to be barking out his lyrics. He does let out some aggression in strange ways, though, particularly on the baffling "He's Bad," during which he bluntly states that he's glad Michael Jackson is dead. Kozelek has no problem with anyone enjoying Jackson's music, and even acknowledges that he once covered the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There," but he doesn't trust anyone who doesn't view Jackson as a creep and a pedophile. While it's the most structured song on the album, the lyrics sound like they were jotted down in three minutes. More than anything, it poses the question of why Kozelek decided to release this song in 2017, considering how many of his songs touch on current events. He seems to deliver more touching stories when he writes about unforgettable encounters with friends and fans. "Twenty Something" is a salute to Johnny Saint-Lethal, an aspiring novelist and indie rock singer who gave Kozelek an autographed copy of his paperback novel at a show in Philadelphia. Kozelek is impressed by Saint-Lethal's ambition (not to mention his badass name), but warns him that the mystery of life will fade before he knows it. Still, he sends Saint-Lethal off with a chorus of well-wishers recorded during a trip to Austin. While tracks such as those are more thematically focused, Kozelek seems to ramble on more than ever on "Wheat Bread" and "Bombs," which cumulatively take up half-an-hour. He pokes fun at this during the final minutes of "Bombs," wondering aloud if the song is going on too long before an engineer kindly tells him to wrap it up. As with other SKM albums, it seems like asking Kozelek to hire an editor is beside the point. He's turning his life and his thoughts into art, and you're either along for the ride or you aren't. For those who are, this album contains plenty of fascinating moments, along with some more questionable ones.

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