Jesu and Sun Kil Moon are intriguing partners for a collaboration. With Jesu’s crushing post-hardcore and Mark Kozelek’s mope-tinged folk apparent worlds apart. The album is very much a hit-and-miss affair, with the two artists sometimes struggling to exert their creative powers in tandem, and in these instances, failing to produce a vivid, cohesive song. When the music is fused successfully however, compelling songs are birthed.
The lyrics throughout the album read as a diary entry from the witty, moody Mark Kozelek. ‘Good morning my love’ delves through varied themes, including world harmony and a swipe at “collectors of rare vinyl”. The brooding, thick instrumentation of Jesu carries the song, whilst the melody twinkles like lights in the dark abyss. The forceful guitar swells in intensity on ‘Carondelet’ into a vicious, lumbering beast, draped in shades of Shoegaze, whilst Kozelek worries repeatedly “oh man, oh man, oh man”. The primary issue with these opening two cuts is the overly indulgent length of both songs as they roll past 8 minutes each. An electronic intro is a sucker punch for the heavy guitar that storms in on album highlight ‘A Song of Shadows’. A fragile piano melody chimes in the distance, the embodiment of the love-lorn lyrics, ie “Without you I wouldn’t have much to live for”. The lyrics here are more focused, leading to a dynamic song and a thoroughly enjoyable listen. ‘Last night I rocked the room like Elvis and had them laughing like Richard Pryor’ is a title of Sufjan Stevens-esque proportions, a rare upbeat cut from the album, driven by a snappy electronic drumbeat but lacking direction. The lyrics ramble on to namecheck numerous musicians including Jello Biafra, whilst the superfluous final minutes revolve around Kozelek’s reading of fan mail.
The ornate, acoustic instrumentation of ‘Fragile’ is another album highlight, a fascination with Neil Young evident amongst the ragged, depressing music and could easily be mistaken for a Sun Kil Moon song, showing the struggle for Jesu to operate alongside the former Red House Painters man. ‘Father’s Day’ and ‘Sally’ are mere filler that mumble along without orientation, both eminently tedious listens. The beautiful guitar melody of ‘America’s Most Wanted Mark Kozelek’ is a resolute backbone, however the exorbitant length strangles interest in the song, never more so then when the dreaded fan mail rears its ugly head. The lyrics to ‘Exodus’ are more centred again, producing an engrossing piece centred around Jesu’s sombre piano, the sobering notion of losing your children is painfully explored, focusing on numerous examples including the passing of Nick Cave’s son, to which Kozelek heart wrenchingly retorts, “For all the grieving parents, I send you my love”. ‘Beautiful You’ is a complete non-track. A bloated corpse clocking in at 14 minutes long, Kozelek rambles through endless pointless musings from his diary, as bland instrumentation wages on perpetually, composing a turgid, benign end to the album.
The collaborative pairing does make for an insightful listen in some areas. Yet, only ‘A Song of Shadows’ and ‘Fragile’ are justified in length, whilst the rest of the album is preventing from fulfilling its artistic potential by its own self-absorption, and is a chore to listen to at its worst.