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Mark Kozelek | What's Next To The Moon (Badman)
At his recent, compelling solo performance at London's Borderline, Mark Kozelek had mocked an innocent complimentary 'sounds good' from a fan with a 'pah, whatever man...' before continuing his set, causing a ripple of nervous laughter in the crowd. After the show he engraved a vague 'MK' in a collectible seven inch sleeve I'd handed him, ambivalent to this equally adoring disciple. I should have known, really. He'd pretty much destroyed my entire back catalogue of Red House Painters records when I'd met him for an interview back in those student rag days, smudged blue scrawl now forever tattooed on those otherwise perfectly preserved artifacts. Such is the reverence bestowed upon Kozelek that he gets away with these offhand acts. Like recording material by such unfashionable and unlikely 'artists' that you can't help pity the poor sap who thought they should check out some Yes, Genesis or Wings records in the hope of discovering another bedsit companion. Once you've stopped laughing at them that is. Truth is, to whichever unlikely candidate Kozelek chooses to pay homage you know he'll make that song his own. Following up Rock'n'Roll Singer, last year's mini-album of originals and covers which included three AC/DC songs, comes an album dedicated wholly to the songs of Young, Young and Scott. That's Angus, Malcolm and Bon to those of us with a similarly dubious past steeped in the riff-heavy, innuendo-laced sleaze of Australia's most succesful rockers. Throughout its thirty minute duration this ten song set (which includes the three R'n'RS tracks, two in re-recorded form), not a hint of feedback is to be heard as Kozelek strips away the bombast of the originals and recasts them as acoustic ballads and folk-songs. There is something unnerving about this rich, angelic voice singing If You Want Blood or Walk All Over You without a trace of irony, and it's as if he's asking his audience 'has anyone got a problem here?' If there is a problem with What's Next To The Moon it's simply that it's been too long since we heard a full set of original material, (besides bootlegs of the long-awaited and ultimately disappointing Old Ramon. Acoustic versions of that album's best material - Golden, Byrd-Joel, Cruiser - would seem as worthy of release as this project), and it is somewhat telling that the most compelling moments of Rock'n'Roll Singer were to be found on such originals as Find Me, Ruben Olivares and Ruth Marie. It is on emotionally charged songs such as these that Mark Kozelek truly shines, only his riveting take of John Denver's I'm Sorry (from the superb Kozelek-compiled tribute, Take Me Home) or Neil Young's Midnight on the Bay (from The Shanti Project compilation), truly worthy of such accolades. On the surface WNTTM is a gentle half hour of acoustic balladry from a voice with few peers, but beneath the assured delivery lies little to touch the soul. If you want blood, look down colorful hill.
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001