Saturday, April 24

I Haunt The Streets of San Francisco

One of the pleasures of living here is finding myself in the setting of some of my favorite music. Many years ago, in Perth, I discovered Mark Kozelek and the Red House Painters. Just as Paul Kelly is determined to evoke Melbourne with his songs, Mark Kozelek constantly references his adopted city. The Painters are not for everyone but they have a distinct, melancholy sound that is steeped in the foggy atmospherics of San Francisco.

The homage to the city starts with album titles like Ocean Beach and Ghosts of the Great Highway. And the lyrics range across the Marin Headlands, Mount Tamalpais, Strawberry Hill, and Grace Cathedral.

The cover of Ocean Beach is a photo of the windmill facing the beach at the edge of Golden Gate Park. And on the inside sleeve, there is a creepy photo of a giant plastic dog's head mounted on a pole. This Doggie Diner Head (a ghostly advertisement for a restaurant that disappeared decades ago) is at the beach end of Sloat Avenue, right near where I park when I surf. The first time I saw it I thought it looked familiar but I credited the memory to a spooky false déjà vu.

Months later, driving away from the surf, I finally remembered the sleeve image as I listened to the album. The Red House Painters (and Kozelek's new band Sun Kil Moon) make for the perfect unwinding, post-surf music for the ride over Twin Peaks back home or to work. If I move away, I think that is what I will miss most about the city itself.

Some San Francisco lyrics from the Red House Painters or Sun Kil Moon:

coming into the haunted city at last/my heart beat fast
down Kearny/down Pine/down Stockton/down Hyde
Unlit Hallway

a mist above the skyline/i haunt the streets of San Francisco
Lost Verses

going past golden gate/elementary everyday
kids down colorful hill/recess and fire drill
she likes the side without the heat/ where the sun don't beat
she likes the cooler side/of washinton street
Priest Alley Song