Sun Kil Moon’s latest release is a double disc, ninety-minute document of the band’s 2017 tour of Europe. If you’re at all familiar with singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek’s work since SKM’s 2014 album, Benji, a largely critically lauded record that included, in essence, lyrics that unfolded like journal entries relating to Kozelek’s deceased relatives, his childhood, friends, and most notably the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, then you’ll have an idea of what you’re in for in regards to the majority of lyrics on This Is My Dinner.
From beginning to end This Is My Dinner feels like performance art. Kozelek starts right away by issuing a call and response back and forth with his band members on the opening number, “This Is Not Possible”, prompting them to either respond with “this is not possible” or “yes, this is possible” while Mark recalls requests he made to concert promoters in Germany. On “Linda Blair” Kozelek at one point recreates the demonic hissing, gurgling sound made by a baby on a plane before he launches into an unrelated screed about the Polish boxer Andrew Golata while repeatedly demanding that the listener “make some fucking noise!” for him. If all of this sounds simultaneously bizarre and darkly humorous, you’re not wrong.
The music throughout This Is My Dinner is kept simple. The band, while competent, isn’t given much to do, setting up repeated instrumental phrasings to more easily allow Kozelek to relay stories about: his past sexual prowess and dwindling libido (“Copenhagen”), memories of Stockholm and Mark’s impression of Sweden and Swedish people (“Candles”), and touring through Spain and living out of a suitcase (“Soap for Joyful Hands”). Most tracks on This Is My Dinner average about ten minutes, and Kozelek orates throughout, so while these brief descriptions give a general idea of what the subject matter of these songs detail, listeners can expect to hear Mark recreate conversations he’s had, complain about bands and artists he hates and loves, and whinge about the mundanity of life on the road.
The only break in Sun Kil Moon’s stream-of-consciousness style from track to track arrives after the song “David Cassidy” wherein Mark talks about his love of The Partridge Family and again encourages listeners to “make some fucking noise!” this time for David Cassidy and AC/DC’s Malcolm Young while he continues to tease that his band is going to play “Come on Get Happy”. When it finally happens, the covered song brings to mind Adam Sandler morosely, depressingly, and hilariously covering Madonna’s “Holiday” in the film The Wedding Singer. “Come on Get Happy” is followed by another cover, a mid-tempo, swaying version of AC/DC’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer”. Here, Kozelek, as if again enjoying a bit of performance art, holds notes for an exceedingly, ridiculously long time while the band stops playing entirely just before he breathes and lets out a giant “Whooo!” before hurtling headlong into the chorus.
It goes without saying that This Is My Dinner won’t be for everyone. Unlike Benji, listeners won’t be returning to specific songs in order to relive a poignant, heartrending lyrical moment. If, however, this record is approached as a performance art piece, and its awkwardly sincere, darkly funny, and embarrassingly revealing moments are experienced from beginning to end, it can make for a sometimes humorous and often revealing outsider’s look into an American musician’s life on the road overseas, even though it may not warrant more than a couple plays before the unconventional elements of Kozelek’s routine feel hackneyed.