Mark Kozelek | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Mark Kozelek 

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When you come right down to it Mark Kozelek is Red House Painters, the somber San Francisco folk-rock quartet who've released four unassumingly fine albums since 1992. Characterized by a veil of maudlin self-pity, snaillike tempos, and dark, largely acoustic textures, Kozelek's songs unapologetically rhapsodize on his love life's rampant failures, recalling a less artful Mark Eitzel of American Music Club, whose championing of Red House Painters led to their signing with England's 4AD label. "Medicine Bottle," from their 1992 debut, Down Colorful Hill, celebrates his loneliness with art-school poetry like "No more breath in my hair / Or lady's underwear / Tossed up over the alarm clock." It's not hard to imagine Kozelek camped out in a San Francisco cafe with a dog-eared spiral notebook waiting for inspiration to hit. The band's just-released fourth album, Ocean Beach, finds him curbing his lyrical indulgences. "Summer Dress," for example, is simultaneously spare and evocative: "Summer dress makes you more beautiful than the rest / Loveliest girl that I know and the sweetest." Granted, they ain't brilliant, but you won't choke on them. On the other hand, the music has always been swell, and it's only gotten better. A remarkably breezy melodicism has emerged from the band's surface-level brooding, and Kozelek's airy, lucid singing--reminiscent of the Rain Parade's Steven Roback--delivers the tunes with a thankfully temperate directness. As the band rarely tours, this solo shot is probably all we'll get of Kozelek's music anytime soon. Tuesday, 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 525-2508.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Chris Cuffaro.

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