Jesu/Sun Kil Moon - 30 Seconds to the Decline of Planet Earth

by Jason Atkinson Rating:8 Release Date:2017-05-05

When I read the title of Jesu/Sun Kil Moon’s latest, 30 Seconds to the Decline of Planet Earth, I am reminded of George Carlin and his rant about Earth Day. “The planet isn’t going anywhere,” he says. “We are! We’re going away. Pack your shit, folks. We’re going away. And we won’t leave much of a trace, either. Maybe a little styrofoam…”

Earth, despite the title of this album, is not declining. Mark Kozelek is, though. But in a good way, in the best way, lovingly captured on this latest release.

It’s been a beautiful fall.

I started listening to Sun Kil Moon when Ghosts of the Great Highway in my early thirties when life was pretty good. Since then, I have enjoyed the evolution and changes in the songwriting. The music has been coming fast and furious of late, with Common as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood coming out this past fall. I can't blame him for releasing a lot and constantly touring: Pitchfork and other well-respected media outlets anointed Benji in 2014; he’s pretty much been a critical darling since then.

Benji struck a nerve; I think—for men especially. It gave voice to the tired hordes of us, muddling through the thirties and forties, who are pretty much like—fuck—with regard to mid-life. I’m one of these people. I’m grinding it out. And I find that I listen to these albums carefully. Sun Kil Moon gives voice, gives shape, to a lot of the frustration and confusion that I have about ageing, about mortality, about how a man is supposed to live his life when he finds himself starting to…decline a bit.

It's nice to hear that you aren’t alone.

It's nice to know that Kozelek is out there telling War on Drugs to “suck his cock,” or telling the hillbillies to shut the fuck up. It’s nice to hear him say: “I can’t explain it, it’s a middle aged thing” when his girlfriend asks what is going on with him with him, why isn't he all cheerful and happy at brunch in San Francisco.

Sometimes you can’t explain it, you know. Something is wrong. Something's off, but...

Who can explain it?

At least Kozelek talks about it.

These Jesu/Sun Kid Moon collaborations seem very much to be about Jesu (Justin Broadrick of Godflesh) making a beat and Kozelek maybe adding a little guitar and riffing lyrics on the top of it. Thematically, The songs cover a lot of ground but mostly circulate around themes of ageing and the passage of time. “You Are Me And I Am You,” is mostly about Kozelek’s relationship with his 83-year-old father. “Wheat Bread” is mostly about small talk and human interactions. “Needles Disney” is about a memory of going to Disney world with a young female heroin addict. Eventually, she gets off drugs, and, when he sees her again, he confesses reluctance to bring up any those Disneyworld memories with her.

“The Greatest Conversation Ever In The History of the Universe” is about hanging out with/getting a hug from Laurie Anderson. Kozelek never misses an opportunity to name-drop the celebrities he comes into contact with, but, at the same time, I can’t say I blame him—it must have been amazing to meet her at the home she shared with her late husband, Lou Reed. Later, he talks about visiting New York City for the first time in 1992 and how he had nothing.

“If you don’t like this song, then fuck off and listen to bye bye Ms. American Pie” he sings.

“He’s Bad” is about Michael Jackson. “Is the latest on him true/I don’t know/but if I had a son would I let him get in the car with Michael Jackson/fuck no.”

That sounds about right.

“Bombs” sounds like more of a Sun Kil Moon driven-tune and less of Jesu. Some good drum work (Steve Shelley?) here and smoky guitar with a The Doors flavour to it. Later on, he name checks Jim Morrison and a bunch of other dead rock stars and talks about how he is grateful not to be dead yet.

Then, there is “Twenty Something.” And I have to feel for Kozelek’s subject here, some kid named Johnny St. Lethal that was being obnoxious at a Sun Kill Moon concert. Though Kozelek tries to be kind and even-handed with him, it’s clear that it’s touched a nerve. He savages the kid and, later, says: “the sweet spot for a man lasts from 27 to 33 and trust me the magic dust starts fading when you’re approaching forty.”  He counters this with “Hello Chicago,” about the director John Hughes and how he loaned Kozelek money to release an album many years ago. “You’re young and on the rise/and I’m just an old man living in Chicago.” 

“A Dream of Winter,” finally, is about Christmas and being grateful. “When you’re young it takes forever for Christmas to come around/when you’re older it comes around, faster than a greyhound.” “If I die tomorrow take no pity,” he writes, closing it with grace and acceptance of his lot in life.

Death and decline might not be so bad after all.

from “Wheat Bread”:

Do people discuss you as a human
or do people discuss you as a product?
I’m a human to most people who know me
But I fall under the product category for the most part
I was born to be a product”

Mark Kozelek might be a product, but he’s not styrofoam. He won’t be here forever. So listen.

And pay for it, too, asshole.

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars