Written by: Paul Gleason
Mark Kozelek’s music is difficult to write about because it bypasses the analytical mind and slams into your soul like a freight train of empathy, poetry, and the naked truth of human experience. The writing of Henry Miller (see Tropic of Cancer and The Colossus of Maroussi), the swing of Ted Williams, the swift punches of Muhammad Ali, and the music of John Coltrane occupy the same landscape as Kozelek’s writing: they’re pure, revelatory, and utterly American.
They strike your gut and stay there forever – reminders of your own potential and ability to be awed.
Mark Kozelek with Ben Boye and Jim White is a firm reminder that Kozelek is the kind of artist typified by an extraordinary poetic and verbal passion. Once you’ve heard him, other songwriters (even Dylan, Mitchell, and Young) pale in comparison. They do not have Kozelek’s courage to delve directly into the human condition without using ornate poetic devices.
Mark Kozelek with Ben Boye and Jim White is Kozelek’s best record since 2014’s Benji – and that’s saying something. But on the new record, Kozelek effortlessly blends his raw, confessional poetry with splendid splats of humor. Just listen to “House Cat,” “Fur Balls,” and other songs in the set, and you’ll see that Kozelek’s cats, as they continuously appear in the lyrics, provide both the comic relief for and the Zen witnesses to contemporary political and personal anguish. Kozelek’s cats have the same emotional resonance as Kozelek’s realization and acceptance of his lifelong melancholy nature in Benji’s “I Watched the Film the Song Remains the Same.”
Kozelek, as on all his most recent records, delivers his lyrics in spoken word style. In de-emphasizing vocal melody, Kozelek plays with language, sound, and rhythm to hypnotic and arresting effect. I cannot think of any record that does this in such a compelling and fresh way. In addition, this style works perfectly well with Kozelek’s jazzy guitar and bass and the keyboard playing of Ben Boye and the drumming of Jim White. The trio sound great together and lend the record a loose, improvisational feel.
These guys are having fun and so will their listeners.
After 25 years of releasing music, Mark Kozelek continues to be one of the most talented and somehow under-appreciated artists in any genre.
Mark Kozelek with Ben Boye and Jim White is more proof of this.