Mark Kozelek with Petra Haden: Joey Always Smiled (Caldo Verde) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019  

Mark Kozelek with Petra Haden

Joey Always Smiled

Caldo Verde

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Another day, another Mark Kozelek album, eh? It's the latest in an interesting line of collaborative records previously seeing the San Franciscan work with Jimmy LaValle (The Album Leaf), Desertshore, Jesu, and more, to varying results. Kozelek's releases away from Sun Kil Moon have been, at least sonically, moments of respite from the diaristic style Kozelek developed back in 2014 for the undisputed classic album Benji and has mined to diminishing returns since.

On this record, Petra Haden (that dog., The Rentals, The Decemberists) appears to take the reins and has helped create seven fairly glorious, rich, and deeply textured sonic palettes on which Kozelek may poetically paint. But no, Kozelek stands firm with his everything-including-the-kitchen-sink-listicle style, which is something of a disappointment. Yet there are transcendent moments; the moving, strange, and genuinely interesting spoken word performance by actor Kevin Corrigan on 16-minute plus single "Parakeet Prison"; the haunting, sparse, strangely exotic, and tender slowcore of the title track; any time Haden's heavenly voice glides over the rough course of Kozelek's seemingly infinite spiel; the apt surprise of the Marine chant from Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket on "Rest In Peace R. Lee Ermey."

Of course it's hard not to be weary of songs with titles like "Nice People All Around," which only hints at the dreary banality held within. Kozelek's insistence on reminding us of his prowess with women in his younger years (prime suspect: "1983 Era MTV Music is the Soundtrack to Outcasts Being Bullied By Jocks" which also disses Springsteen for fuck's sake) is also profoundly tiring.

That the album closes with a folky reworking of Huey Lewis and the News' 1985 hit "The Power of Love" (from Back to the Future) is testament to Kozelek's ongoing passion for bizarre cover choices and, while entirely unnecessary, at least has novelty value and is, actually, kinda beautiful. Truthfully it's a rare moment in which Haden is placed upfront in the mix and that's a sweet relief. Her voice, when utilized effectively, is really something otherworldly.

The sound of a man seemingly attempting to record every single memory, every single moment of his entire life for posterity is perhaps a noble endeavor, or perhaps a desperate, ego-driven manifesto. Kozelek is pretty obviously one of the greatest unrecognized songwriters of a generation, even if he's not tapped into that seam of genius in half a decade a glance at his back catalogue will tell you that, and there's still a lot of love for him in many circles. Another Mark Kozelek album? Despite the appearance of variation offered by collaboration—it's time to change the record, brother. (www.sunkilmoon.com)

Author rating: 5.5/10

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