Mark Kozelek is, to these ears, in a bit of a golden moment in his career at present. He seems to have ditched the more stylistic productions and songwriting of old for a far less precious and far more spontaneous and personal approach. I can well understand why this may be splitting his audience a bit, but to those of us who have been bitten hard by this new 'diary'-style approach, Benji is a delight.
It's about the attention to detail, the perfectly drawn snippets of everyday life that make each story (and yes, that is what they are more than songs) strangely compelling. This is not background music, it has to be given your full attention in the same way that a talking book demands.
Yes, the main theme of the record is one of mortality, but this is not the self-indulgent whining of a teenager, it is the world weary observations and exasperations of a middle-aged man who is grappling with the big issues of love and loss without losing either his sense of humor or his sense of the absurd. It's a wonderful record - and anyone who can use the line "sports bar s***" as a bona-fide hookline (Ben's My Friend) deserves considerable praise in my world.