Mark Kozelek / Desertshore – Mark Kozelek & Desertshore │ Review

(Calo Verde)

Indie-rock legend Mark Kozelek is nothing if not prolific these days.

Since May 2012 he has released no less than six official live and studio records, not to mention three live albums exclusive to those ordering from his Caldo Verde website.  Tending toward tours featuring just the man and his Spanish guitar, Kozelek is the very definition of the modern troubadour:  avoiding the perils and pitfalls of the music business as best he can; making music for, and selling as directly as possible to, his loyal fanbase.  It would be easy to criticise Kozelek’s new found productivity as little more than a way to bleed said loyal fanbase of their hard-earned cash – after all, the man managed a relatively paltry six records and an EP of original material in nine years as founder of Red House Painters – were it not for the fact that his recent output has been so bloody good.

His lastest, a collaboration with the really rather splendid Desertshore, finds Kozelek in similar (if not quite so jovial) mood to his most recent Sun Kil Moon record; 2013’s terriffic Among The Leaves.  While lyrically Mark Kozelek and Desertshore finds Kozelek returning to familiar themes it sounds much closer to his days in Red House Painters and the first record released under the Sun Kil Moon banner, 2003’s incredibly good Ghosts of the Great Highway.  This, perhaps, isn’t too surprising when you consider that Desertshore features former Red House Painters guitarist Phil Carney.  In fact the moody, brooding “You Are Not Of My Blood” could sit very comfortably with anything from the House Painters final album, 2001’s Old Ramon.

“Livingstone Bramble” lifts its title from the former lightweight world champion, but soon becomes a meditation on the life of an under-appreciated and underrated guitarist and songwriter.  Both are recurrent themes in Kozelek’s recent work, and here he points out that while he “can play like Fripp and Johnny Marr” and “play rings around Jay Farrar,” we are also told of his disdain for guitarists Eric Clapton and Derek Trucks and the fact that he hates Wilco’s Nels Cline to great comedic effect. Elsewhere, albums opener “Mariette” speaks of a relationship in which the titular young woman seeks commitment and assurances from the narrator, only for him to be distracted and sidetracked before he is able to do so despite his obvious love of being with her.  The Papillon quoting “Hey You Bastards I’m Still Here” begins with an account of a youthful meeting with Anton LaVey before continuing into a series of reminicinces about “the old days” and spending time with his father as a younger man, not unlike much of the beautiful “Glenn Tipton” from Ghosts of the Great Highway.

Lacking the constant humour of Among The Leaves but not suffering as a result, Mark Kozelek and Desertshore is a poignant, touching delight.  Despite casting himself as a somewhat curmudgeonly veteran of the indie-rock scene, Kozelek is cementing his reputation as truly remarkable, reliable and enduringly relevant artist. [subscribe2]

About John Stubley

John Stubley
John Stubley is a part-time Associate Professor of English, and full-time repository for pointless trivia. Holding rather worthless degrees in Media and Popular Culture, and 18th Century English Literature, he now fills his time by spouting forth opinions on everything that may conceivably be referred to as Pop Culture to anyone who will listen, and many who won't.

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