Mark Kozelek – Lost Verses – Live

January 01, 1970

(Caldo Verde)



Temporary Red House Painters retiree/sometime Sun Kil Moon
melancholia maestro Mark Kozelek is a master re-arranger. And not just by
virtue of his now-iconic cover albums and constant creative interpretations of
his own material. Even the man’s many guises are swapped, abandoned and
re-adopted with mysterious intent. Lost
is released under his given name, even though all but two of
its tracks were originally recorded as Sun Kil Moon. Which calls into question
the essentialness of Kozelek’s nom de songwriters, and risks distorting his fan
base’s rabid relationship to their downbeat San Franciscan hero. Which also
might explain the impulse for his sporadically emergent performance documents
(including 2001’s White Christmas and
2006’s Little Drummer Boy).
Characteristically stripped bare and almost uncomfortably dramatic, a Kozelek
concert tends to obliterate the semantics surrounding his persona and
practically dares his audience to engage in something unusually intimate.


Lost Verses is no
exception, and complements its aforementioned predecessors comprehensively
(this album was, in fact, intended to serve as a bookend to a trilogy of
sorts). Meatier than Christmas but
less exhaustive than Drummer Boy, the
14-song set on Live-culled from tour
stops in Brooklyn, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Portland-is, in part, a
display case for his unrivaled ability to infer and articulate several readings
of his own compositions.


RHP classic “Katy Song,” which closes out the set, is
particularly touching in its elegantly mournful re-working. Kozelek’s phrasing
is resistant, as if he’s reconciling the meaning of his words while they’re
uttered, group-sharing reflections about a former muse who tragically passed.  


The lone additional non-SKM offering is Kozelek’s poignant
re-imagining of Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns,” which is a good deal
more gripping amidst this carefully collaged set list than when interspersed
between odds-and-ends on The Finally LP.


The remaining dozen songs, however, are primarily-and
satisfyingly-faithful to their SKM originals, save the expected-but-telling
de-emphasis or extra lingering over certain syllables and sentiments. (His
voice doesn’t always indulge its fractured lilt during the choruses of “Carry
Me Ohio.”) Yet, despite the sense of inclusion during more personal moments,
it’s the broader whimsy of lines like “Saltwater taffy/New Jersey shore/Blue
like the fingernails she wore” during “Moorestown” that really take you
somewhere special with Kozelek as a storyteller.


And that’s all any of his fans really desire when seeking
out the experience of his emotionally taxing-and at times challengingly
histrionic-live reveals. That’s evidenced by their overly excited laughter in
response to chance moments of mundane between-song banter (although it does
elicit knowing giggles when he denies an audience member’s request to remove
his shirt).


So when all is said and sung regarding Kozelek’s many moods
and not-quite-alter egos, the point he seems to be making with Live, and its similarly eponymous sister albums, is that his post-Red House
Painters musical purpose has been as elusive to him as his fans. But that these
14 songs are one-third of a self-portrait he’s developed in the last nine
years, in collaboration with his audiences, and while it’s not always pretty or
perfect, it’s unmistakably genuine.


Standout Tracks: “Katy
Song,” “Moorestown” KENNY HERZOG






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