It’s hard to find something good to say about Common as Light and Love are Red Valleys of Blood without matching it with “however”.
There’s a number of solid songs on the album. “Window Sash Heights” is crafted quite beautifully, has a sense of purpose and feels shorter than it’s six-and-a-half minute length. “God Bless Ohio” works well as an opener and whilst feeling a bit closer to its length, does not falter in its atmosphere and tenderness. However, most of the songs can wear on the listener as far too many are bloated and meander almost aimlessly due to how little is going on to warrant their length.
The focus on bass and drums gives Mark Kozelek more room to work with the rhythm section. There’s a real emphasis on the groove of the music that isn’t normally found on a Sun Kil Moon record. However, Mark Kozelek doesn’t really do much with the rhythm section and more often than not seems to be only contributing token amounts with little effect.
Some of Mark’s finest lyrical ideas are found here as he looks outward about as often as he does inward on most of the songs. There’s some really touching moments, such as when “Chili Lemon Peanuts” suddenly switches roughly four minutes in as Mark Kozelek ruminates on life. During “Lone Star” Mark Kozelek uses hypocrisy in regard to things he’s said and the reaction from some people which ends up leading to an attack on things that he sees as not making sense, such as transgender laws in North Carolina. Quite frankly, to hear Mark Kozelek talk about transgender laws is a good thing.
However, moments like these end up being few and far between as most of the lyrical content becomes excessive rambling about what Mark Kozelek is more than capable of saying with far fewer words with greater impact.
Maybe that’s the point. Maybe Mark Kozelek is slowly working Sun Kil Moon into some sort of post-modern musical project. Maybe all of this makes some sort of sense and this album is actually one of the strongest Sun Kil Moon releases so far. Perhaps it’s meant to sound a little too loose and be frustrating to hear. Perhaps Mark Kozelek is trying to challenge us on something deeper than surface level.
The biggest problem with this album is that it sounds like Mark Kozelek had more time than he has ideas.
Oddly enough, it seems as though the songs could have benefited from being worked on for a bit longer. Mark Kozelek is worthy of respect for pursuing music the way he does. He has artistic integrity and despite what seems like a dearth of ideas, there are a few on this album.
Some of Mark Kozelek’s best work can be heard on Common as Light and Love are Red Valleys of Blood.
When it’s good, it’s brilliant. The problem is that there’s a lot of fat that needed to be trimmed and instead was left intact.