Sun Kil Moon - Benji | Album Review | By Volume

Understand that I am only as he made me: a faithful servant to all of the noise, all of the lights, all of the flashing in my head. Laura Stevenson - Wheel

Sun Kil Moon


Benji will invade your dreams.

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Author: on February 28, 2014
Caldo Verde

I woke with garbage breath this morning. Offal. Always happens, even with vigorous pre-bed brushing, washing and praying. Maybe it’s no more than an aftertaste of dreams. No biggie. But some day, probably, there’ll be a woman waking next to me. Will my dreams improve then? Will my breath cooperate? Is this an early-twenties thing? Would she even care, like Shakespeare to his detritus-of-supernova’d mistress? Or might it come to some clandestine Listerine affair? I’d spend fifteen minutes slinking out the sheets, possessed by Wyrd herself to obtain that minty blue liquid secrecy.  Moving past a lambent teal hum of six o’clock to find this well-intended Judas’ cold masked inhalations…justified? And the dream-reels. Last night, for example:

1) Scene: A three-story mega-mall that may as well have been the Winchester Mystery House. The You Are Here icon kept shifting from place to place and map to map. I was trying to pull this on an ex who in reality either pulled it on me or we stalemated at an Arcade Fire show I’d already purchased tickets for. She cried during “Crown of Love”. I laughed. Maybe I shouldn’t have. On an unrelated note, Winchester-Mall Randos had Effie Trinket hair.

2) Scene: War. Bamboo dart-guns. Magic. Armageddon? I switched sides more than once, knowing better than to throw myself against an army with uphill-advantage. Endless automatic enfilade. Last I knew I was charging with comrades down a wraparound conical valley of death towards unseen enemy ranks. I either died, or the dream expired into –

3) Scene: My room. Forced at rhetorical gunpoint by the Apotheosis of Something Bad to play a simulated Banjo-Kazooie-type mini-game based on previous scene, conceptually simple were it not for its impossibly exacting time limit. With each loss, a belonging of mine repossessed. There goes The Office: Season 2. Smell ya later, wooden elephant figurine.

Big whoop. Big. Ass. Whoop. Who am I to lament my tuffy-wuffy Amewiccan pwoblems, seriously? Broadcasting them to strangers is bad enough, even if they’re in miniature, and even if they pack a prettier punch than:

If you’re reading this, I’ve successfully warmed the editors here at By Volume to allowing my review of Sun Kil Moon’s Benji to speak for itself, without numbers or even a vague pass/fail system getting in the way. Since its release earlier this month, singer/songwriter Mark Kozelek’s solo sixth has garnered stratospheric reception…

…And so on. Yawn. But it works. And it’s true – not since early-decade art-clout contender The Age of Adz have I been Opinion’s Magikarp; like Adz, Benji founders and floats, somehow, and my long-term judgment with it. Part of me wants to admit that the Quaaludian “I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same” cured a migraine, that “Micheline” and “I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love” did make me cry. Part of me recalls “I Love My Dad” and its goofy gospel chorus and itches to meander…


Between the Fall of 2011 and the Summer of 2012, a younger, wastrel me fell into a deep, and initially I thought, good-natured, Smirnoff Ice War. This battle was with a fellow Super Happy Fun Times Major, which may have had its origins in a hyper-toxic round of Frat Risk. Now, if you’ve been Iced before, you can appreciate the game’s potential as a clever, well-timed young gentleman’s sport:

GEORGE: She was rare, Jerry! [On “rare” outspreading his jacketed wings] I felt like, like…like I’d snatched the one Jason Alexander doll in a claw-game filled with hard-boiled eggs. On my first quarter!

[Canned chuckles]

JERRY: Uhh-huhhhh.



GEORGE: [With rapid, dismissive finality] And sheeza fork-biter!

JERRY: [Amused] A fork-biter…?

GEORGE: She. When she eats. She. You know. Bites down. On her fork? [Provides repeated ocular re-enactment to much comic effect]

JERRY: All right, all right already, so she goes all the way down. [Gets an idea] However, you are clearly heated up about this social tragedy.

GEORGE: Heated up? O-o-o-o-oh-h-h-h, I’m on fire, pal!

JERRY: [Reaching into his coat, pinkie out, for the big reveal] Seems to me like maybe you should…cool down?

[Rip-roaring laughter; applause]

Our conflict was anything but. Before long, delivery and wit were replaced by rude one-upmanship, neo-troglodytic brutality chalk-tallied above a broken toilet for the eager entertainment of second-and-third parties, who often collaborated with one or the other power to ensure the next strike’s capacity for humiliation. Taking a balcony-piss? Thrice him! Pre-gaming for an important party? Quadruple him! Shit went public. To restaurants. To dormitories. To academic buildings. The game-changing Ice-ception – Smirnoff’s dreaded bitch-drink frozen into a giga-cube of actual ice, the nozzle’s glass lips ever so above the surface. Excessive saccharine sadomasochism: broken bottles and menacing near-upchuck-level declarations: “I fucking love ice.”


Listening to Benji is perpetually letting yourself get iced by feels. Ugly feels. Stupid feels. Poignant feels. Funny feels. Thoughtful feels. Sexy feels. Pineapple Upside-Down Feels. And, on occasion, Olympian feels – when Mr. Kozelek pledges to sing his cousin’s “name across every sea”, I believe him. Her hidden, unknown face, that eviscerated a thousand souls. Including mine.

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