Sun Kil Moon's Mark Kozelek is a divisive figure in the indie-rock community, and his latest effort surely isn't going to do anything to remedy that. I've previously written here about Kozelek's antics during his bizarre feud with the band The War on Drugs back in 2014. It seemed then that Kozelek was losing his mind slowly, as he alternated between being irritated and irreverent with both fans and The War on Drugs. You couldn't tell if the guy was legitimately angry or playing some massive joke on everyone involved without ever letting you in on it.
This year Kozelek embarked on a collaboration with an equally unknowable genius of independent music, Jesu's Justin Broadrick. Released in January, the Jesu/Sun Kil Moon self-titled record has been one of my consistent favorites of this year, primarily because it exploits every single eccentricity of both bands to their fullest. The songs are winding post-rock journeys that wax and wane in intensity while Kozelek pretty much just talks over them, reading off what seem to be journal entries, ruminations on off-the-wall lyrical subjects such as the death of Nick Cave's son, and letters from fans. Each song probably has more in common with Kozelek's "War On Drugs: Suck My Cock," released at the height of that feud, than anything else Kozelek or Jesu has ever released. Once again, it's difficult to tell whether Kozelek is legitimately losing it, is playing an elaborate joke or has just found the purest form of his own brilliance.
Next year Jesu and Sun Kil Moon will release another full-length collaborative effort, titled 30 Seconds to the Decline of Planet Earth. Wasting no time to release songs from it, they've now put out the song "He's Bad," which is every bit as strange and stunning as their first album. It's also the weirdest diss song directed toward Michael Jackson that you'll ever hear.
Over a beautiful instrumental framework crafted by Jesu, Kozelek tells a story of meeting a woman on a plane who is a dancer for a Michael Jackson dance production. For the duration of the rest of the song, he hurls insults toward the deceased King of Pop.
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Kozelek has seemingly put a ton of thought into how much he hates Jackson, covering almost all his bases and the multiple ways in which people might try to argue with him over it. “I don't give a flying fuck what he meant to the mainstream world,” he says at one point. Regarding people who were moved by Jackson's music, he retorts, “That's what pop music is supposed to do.” And in reference to his own cover of a Jackson 5 song ("I'll Be There"), he replies, “I believe that our world is better off with Michael dead than alive.”
The litany of other disses toward Jackson mostly focuses on the accusations of child molestation and his many plastic surgeries. “If I had a son, would I let him get into a car with Michael Jackson?” Kozelek asks, then answers his own question: “Fuck no.” He compares Jackson to Roman Polanski and, referring to the fact that Jackson was acquitted of any wrongdoing, to OJ Simpson.
“He's bad and he's dead and I'm glad,” the chorus of the song declares in morbid joy. It would be one thing if Kozelek simply didn't like Michael Jackson as either a human being or a musician, but “He's Bad” openly celebrates Jackson's early death and says “to me, it ain't that fuckin' sad.” The ending mocks Jackson's excesses by referencing his classic “Don't Stop Til You Get Enough”: “He didn't stop til he got enough.”
For a fan of Michael Jackson, the song's lyrics are both mildly disturbing and darkly hilarious. I can't pretend to really care what Kozelek thinks about Jackson or the fact that people still enjoy MJ's music, though dancing on someone's grave like this is a bit tacky. On the other hand, this is Mark Kozelek we're talking about, so none of this is entirely surprising. And it doesn't make it any less entertaining. “He's Bad” is a great song no matter what Kozelek is ranting about.