Sun Kil Moon: Universal Themes (Caldo Verde) - Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Sun Kil Moon

Universal Themes

Caldo Verde

Jun 11, 2015 Sun Kil Moon Bookmark and Share

At the time of writing, Mark Kozelek is a man embroiled in one of those Internet controversies they have now. At a recent London show, he accused a female journalist of wanting to “fuck [him]” and “have [his] babies” on account of her having the temerity to request a face-to-face interview. This dickish side to the guylet’s not beat around the bush here, because he sure-as-fuck doesn’tputs his new album Universal Themes in a new light.

Kozelek seems intent on establishing himself as the cantankerous old man of indie folk: admittedly a niche position that’s wide open. This controversy follows his bemusing attack on The War on Drugs last year and Universal Themes feels like an attempt at cementing that position. He made forays into stream-of-consciousness diatribes on the overrated, but decent, Benji (it doesn’t hold a candle to Ghosts of the Great Highway) and takes it to extremes here.

The shortest song on the record clocks in at six minutes, 45 seconds and the average track length is just shy of nine minutes. Over loose and heavily repeated musical motifs, he explores such universal themes as watching HBO, clearing up that he doesn’t actually hate Nels Cline and cats. For someone who has experienced genuine tragedy in his life and has made a career of autobiographical subject matter, it’s pretty damn dull. Worse, lines such as “Some people love what I do and some get fuckin’ pissy/but I don’t give a fuck, one day they’re all gonna miss me” just come across as petulant.

Musically, there’s some nice stuff here. The nylon string Latin guitar sounds of “Cry Me a River Williamsburg Sleeve Tattoo Blues” and the grungy chug of “With a Sort of Grace I Walked to the Bathroom to Cry” make a nice change for someone who has, lately, settled into soft, stark, pretty, boring solo acoustic ditties. But, over these running times, they sound like a writer who got “pissy” and sacked his editor, turning instead to dirges. That said, the prettiest, longest song on here, “Garden of Lavender” is the only one that really justifies its length. It’s a neat reminder of what Kozelek is (used to be?) capable of. (

Author rating: 4.5/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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