Jesu / Sun Kil Moon

Jesu/Sun Kil Moon

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Justin Broadrick and Mark Kozelek had been hinting at a collaboration for a long time before Jesu/Sun Kil Moon appeared on Kozelek's Caldo Verde Records in early 2016. Kozelek released Jesu's 2009 EP Opiate Sun and 2011 full-length Ascension, he covered Godflesh's "Like Rats" in 2013, and the opening track from Sun Kil Moon's 2015 album Universal Themes was centered around a story of Kozelek hanging out with Broadrick in San Francisco before witnessing an amazing Godflesh concert. The long-gestating collaboration finds Kozelek continuing the diary-like storytelling of his previous albums, recalling stories from his youth, reflecting on his family, and spending a lot of time remarking about the reception of his work from critics and fans. Broadrick's backing tracks range from heavy, lumbering shoegaze guitars to atmospheric synthesizers and trip-hop drum loops, and several guests contribute backing vocals, including Will Oldham, Slowdive's Rachel Goswell, and Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock. But even though Jesu appears on the marquee first, the album is undoubtedly dominated by Kozelek's lyrics and personality. He spits out his autobiographical lyrics more furiously than ever, and at 80 minutes, the album is easily his wordiest release yet. The very fact that one of the songs is titled "Last Night I Rocked the Room Like Elvis and Had Them Laughing Like Richard Pryor" indicates how his live performances have morphed into some sort of weird musical performance art spectacle. He vents his frustration with hipsters who only talk to him to ask about rare vinyl pressings of his albums while all he can think about is problems with relationships and friendships, returning to the phrase "what does rekindle mean?" during opener "Good Morning My Love." There's plenty of other heartfelt ponderings and remembrances, such as the recollection of listening to Yes with a friend who was battling leukemia during the lovely, lush "Fragile," and the solemn piano and drum machine lament "Exodus," during which Kozelek describes his reaction to the news of Nick Cave's son's death. He recalls the time he met Cave and his son, and admits that he doesn't know what it's like to be a parent who's lost a child, but he understands that it must be the most painful experience imaginable, and he sends out his love to all who face this tragedy. Other moments on the album get even more self-referential (and self-congratulatory), with the 14-minute closing track "Beautiful You" finding Kozelek actually reading from his diary, and not one but two songs including passages where he reads touching letters from fans about how much his work means to them (and he trips over his words and seems humbled while reading them). In particular, the aforementioned "Last Night..." ends with a letter from a fan in Singapore who says that he appreciates how Kozelek's work is getting increasingly more personal, and that what he's doing is intended for his fans who have been following him for years and share his sense of humor, not for all the trend-hoppers who only pay attention to him because of the hype surrounding his acclaimed 2014 album Benji. This sums up Jesu/Sun Kil Moon better than any review could; while Kozelek remains an incredible storyteller, and the album is fascinating as ever to his faithful followers, it's likely to be exhausting, infuriating, or simply head-scratching to anyone who isn't already a fan of his. And as wonderful as Broadrick's musical contributions are, they recede into the background and aren't nearly as distinctive as his own work.

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