Mark Kozelek What’s Next To The Moon.
As someone who sincerely believes that the absolute freaking peaking pinnacle of this ‘music’ thing we all like is AC/DC Powerage* how was I ever going to resist this LP? especially as it is named after my joint favourite Powerage track? especially as the other joint favourite is this LP’s opener? especially as I have come to worship the Red House Painter’s slow-e-motion charms? especially as the cover features moody shots of train tracks and cars**? especially as I wanted it from the moment I first read about it back in 2001? especially when it got released on LP for the first time as a limited edition of 1700 for RSD 2015?
No resistance at all from me.
What’s Next To The Moon is an excellent collection of solo acoustic Young/Young/Scott AC/DC covers. I know, I know what you’re thinking that by 2019 the surprising/inappropriate-slow-acoustic-acapella cover of a happy song is the absolute staple of TV show themes and marketing campaigns^^, way back in the year 2001 this was not the case. In Red House Painters Kozelek had already done the do on KISS’ ‘Shock Me’, so he had his ear tuned right for this kind of thang.
Kozelek picks 10 AC/DC album tracks for this LP, with a fairly even distribution weighted towards the mighty Powerage (which tops the table with 3) including the laudably obscure ‘You Ain’t Got A Hold On Me’ from the Aussie version of High Voltage. I like the way there are a few tracks I’d consider ‘lesser treasures’ here such as ‘If You Want Blood’ and ‘Love Hungry Man’ getting their day in the acoustic sun. Kozelek tweaks the lyrics ever so slightly from time to time and cuts back the repetition in the choruses a bit, necessarily.
Some tracks on What’s Next To The Moon work better than others, which is to be expected. Before I bang on about the title track at unnecessary length here are the best bits:
- Up To My Neck In You: a lovely chiming song full of yearning and plaintive love^*.
- Love Hungry Man: gorgeous melodies and gentle uncertainties abound.
- Bad Boy Boogie: some lovely picking and somewhat resigned rebellion.
- If You Want Blood: a tough-strumming acoustic act of defiance.
- Walk All Over You: it’s a tentative song about love and self-subjugation, not about aggressive sex at all, who knew?
For me, as well as the novelty of the idea, What’s Next To The Moon is all about, umm, ‘What’s Next To The Moon’; it does not disappoint. Kozelek reinterprets it as a faintly menacing percussive murder ballad, which is about right, although a couple of lyrics are tweaked. We’re right in Mark Lanegan’s bailiwick here. My particular favourite bit is where Kozelek goes all Bobby McFerrin on us and sings us a guitar solo.
Tied my baby to the railroad track
Train rolling down the line
Givin’ that woman just one more chance
To give it to me one more time
Engineer wishin’ he was home in bed
Dreamin’ about Casey Jones
Wide-eyed woman with a hole in her head
Crying over broken bones
‘What’s Next To The Moon’ does exactly what all the best covers do, they make us look at something we know and love in a different light, show us something new refracted through another’s gaze. No mean trick.
To a greater or lesser extent the same is true for the whole of What’s Next To The Moon. Mark Kozelek teases out a certain uncertainty from these songs and suggests that there may be something occasionally deeper underlying all the machismo on show, maybe even (whisper it!) feelings; whether there actually is or not, or whether his interpretations are more of a reflection of his own mental topography is another matter. The most Red House Painterly track here is ‘Love Hungry Man’ and Kozelek does indeed conjure soul from base material.
As much as I want him to follow this up with a second collection called Big Balls*^, a more instructive exercise might be to try and do the same with the Johnson era of AC/DC. I loved the man as the band’s singer but his, ahem, straight-forward lyrical style would not I suspect lend itself to such interpretation/extrapolation of vulnerability. Please feel free to contain your howls of derisive laughter when in 5 years I’m here wittering on about how Kozelek has managed to illuminate hitherto undreamed of depths of emotion in ‘Sink The Pink’ and the gentle torment that has always been an inherent quality for me in ‘Heatseeker’.
What’s Next To The Moon will do fine until then, a collection of covers that mostly embellish and elucidate the originals, in the way that covers should but so rarely do; mind you most covers LPs cannot boast a talent a quarter as talented as Mark Kozelek.
*and all human culture thus far.
**referencing the lyrics of said titular track^.
^lord, how I love the word ‘titular’, a word that can both make me giggle and feel wiser simultaneously.
^^how long until we have some daft bastard sad-crooning ‘Hell Bent For Leather’, or ‘Long Stick Goes Boom’ at us like he’s dawdling on the way to his father’s funeral as the theme tune for True Detective: 4 ?
^*and there was me thinking it was all a dodgy, pounding double entendre (repeat comment for every single track here).
*^good luck teasing gentle melodies and plaintive yearning out of that title track.