Down Colorful Hill was a huge favourite of mine when it appeared out of the blue fifteen years ago. But I’ve not really kept up with Mark Kozelek’s music since the eccentric, but inspired, AC/DC covers album What’s Next To The Moon. The only time I saw Red House Painters was way back in 1993 at Manchester University. So tonight was either going to be a reacquaintance with an old friend, or a confirmation of a parting of ways.
Kozelek’s always had a faintly unappealing air of arrogance about him. That came out in some of the crowd banter tonight, which at times verged on the snide. He arrived on stage wearing a Halloween mask, which was a nice touch. The joke wore thin, though, when he kept it on through the first half of the set. He was accompanied by a seated second guitarist who remained anonymous – not spoken to, referred to or even acknowledged. Just the hired help, I guess. I have to confess that the vast majority of the material was unfamiliar. The only original that I recognized was “Brockwell Park” from Ocean Beach – almost topical as it was inspired by bonfire night in south London. Kozelek has an appealing, wistful tenor which is very easy to listen to. The problem was that most of the songs had the same mood, feel and melodic lines. For long periods my mind was wandering as another self-piteous paean issued forth from the stage. Taken in isolation, many of them are actually pretty good songs. It’s just that the homogeneity of the set got wearing. I longed for something a little more upbeat, or just something with some kind of passion instead of the endless fog of resignation. Kozelek has often been compared to Mark Eitzel. While Eitzel’s songwriting skills may have deserted him, he still sings everything like he means it. Tonight just felt like motions being gone through. A sea of rapt faces around me seemed to disagree. At the end I strolled home through knots of drunken witches and Freddy Kruegers and slapped on some Four Tops, thoroughly depressed by the whole evening.