These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
The divide started all the way at the beginning when the album Down Colorful Hill was released. Many of their early fans, including Kozelek himself, disliked the airy sounding production in comparison to the rawer sounding demo tapes, while others thought it improved the listening experience. There's also the dispute over what songs on the demo should and shouldn't have made the final album.
Songs For A Blue Guitar also split fans due to the fact that it's even lighter than Ocean Beach and because the classic rock influences present on the last album took center stage. One camp commends Kozelek for succeeding in transitioning the sound on such an ambitious record, while the other camp didn't like the new sound. The divide got even larger, after the release of the even lighter Old Ramon.
And that's not even accounting for the Red House Painters vs Sun Kil Moon dichotomy. When Sun Kil Moon was formed, the fandom really split off with fans that prefer the sound of each project as well as a vocal group that love both.
Creator Breakdown- The majority of the lyrical content of the band's music tends to be inspired by Mark Kozelek's struggle with depression. This is especially apparent on their first 3 albums.
Cult Classic- All of the band's albums could qualify. Even though they were very well liked by critics, they never reached a massive audience.
Enforced Method Acting: The entire album of Rollercoaster is this in spades. It might very well be the largest case of Enforced Method Acting in musical history:
Some of the record engineers were ordered by 4AD head Ivo Watts-Russell to make recording as stressful as possible to put Kozelek under a lot of pressure in order to get a more genuine performance out of him. So that strained, stressed sound present on it that you don't hear anywhere else? Not faked at all!
"Things Mean A Lot" had an unexpected piano riff added in that caught Kozelek by surprise. The song, being about Kozelek finally getting over an old muse of his, always seems to bring a tear to Kozelek's eyes because of this.
"Katy Song" was originally supposed to be shorter for the album version, but when the band parts were recorded first, they were told to drag out the second section extra long. Kozelek was not told of this, so when his guitar and vocal parts were recorded he got confused and frustrated trying to figure out when the song was going to end. So that effect of how the guitars and vocals sound progressively more and more exhausted is actually Kozelek trying to keep the song going and getting frustrated.
"Strawberry Hill" has the chorus sung by a group of strangers picked up from the street outside of a Los Angeles recording studio. When Mark was doing his final take for the vocal line, the crowd started singing in the background with Mark. He was not expecting this and the frail sound of his voice is actually him trying to hold back tears. The song had a lot of personal meaning to him, since it was about his troubled suicidal and depressed past.
"Brown Eyes" was supposed to be a closing track featuring just Mark Kozelek on guitar. As things progressed, however, he was caught by surprise when the rest of the band came in and started playing with him, re-enforcing the theme of "Strawberry Hill".
Even Better Sequel- The band's debut Down Colurful Hill is a very good record and still is considered to be one of the best albums of the slowcore genre. However, it's successor, The Rollercoaster Album, which is more lushly produced, features Kozelek writing on a higher level lyrically, and contains some of the band's best songs, is one of the finest records of the 90's period.
Also, the cover for the album of Old Ramon which is the picture of an American flag entrapped in a circle with a lens flare. This wouldn't be so bad if it weren't released almost 4 months before 9/11 happened. Haunting then, especially haunting now.
Magnum Opus- Rollercoaster and Ocean Beach. Sometimes even Songs For Blue Guitar is given this nod as well.
Kozelek's favorite Red House Painters album, however, is Old Ramon.
Keep Circulating the Tapes- Want to hear the original version of the Red House Painters cover of the classic Yes hit "Long Distance Runaround"? It's on the long out of print double vinyl of Ocean Beach. Though the song would later appear on Songs For Blue Guitar, many people who have heard the original claim it to be one of the best songs by the band. The later re-recording of it? Many consider it to not be one of Kozelek's best covers. The vinyl can be obtained, but it is extremely difficult, and extremely expensive, usually going for 350 to 700 dollars.
The early RHP demos from before the well-known 1991-92 demos are considered mostly lost. What remains are 2 or 3 songs that were featured on a rare 1988 interview that didn't surface on the internet until around November 2012. While there are a few tastes given by Kozelek alone on acoustic guitar, it is likely that we will probably never know what those songs sound like with a full band, or if there are possibly more songs missing.
The music video for "Summer Dress" was also seldom seen before the days of YouTube, to the point where many doubted to it even existing. The version you can now see on YouTube, however, has subpar audio quality.
Their early pre-4AD demos are also pretty rare now. Not only are most of the songs not present on any "official" RHP recording, but they would never be rerecorded. Some of the tapes go for pretty cheap if their sellers aren't aware of their value, while others will go for as much as 70 to 100 dollars a pop.
Mark Kozelek's book of lyrics and footnotes by the name of Nights of Passed Over is limited to about 2500 copies worldwide. While copies can be found on the internet, chances are that they will cost about 300-400 dollars.
Missing Episode- Old Ramon had become one of the most famous "lost albums" of all time before it was finally released. The hype built up so much that it's said that the band's fanbase nearly doubled just because of the circulating rumors of the album.
Narm- Because Mark is such an emotionally impacted singer, there are times where he can come off as just plain corny. Some examples:
"Have You Forgotten" is about growing up, feeling awkward with oneself, and losing touch with your inner child. However when he mentions things like "Casey Kasem's radio show" and "your friends are fucked up anyway" you can't help but crack up. Narm points also go to the line "That's when friends were nice, To think of them makes you feel nice" the Rhyming with Itself doesn't help.
"Cabezon" with it's hokey, overly-Americana like feel to it.
"Silly Love Songs" is this in spades. For some it can be a gut-wrenching masterpiece; to others the sheer irony of him over-emoting a "Silly Love Song" can really turn it into unintentional comedy.
"Lord Kill The Pain" off their first album also counts. The lyrics are so over the top that it becomes ridiculous. Though it's probable that that was the band's intention.
Narm Charm: Some of the lyrics sound a tad ridiculous when read on paper, but Kozelek is very good at making them work in context to the song most of the time.
Short-Lived Big Impact- The band was around for only 9 years, but their impact on the slowcore genre is still evident to this day.
Signature Song: To hardcore fans, it's usually either "Medicine Bottle" or "Katy Song". However their most well song is arguably "Have You Forgotten" or their cover of "All Mixed Up".
Throw It In- They were notorious for this. From the Studio Chatter on "Over My Head", the jazz-like improvisation on the same track, on-the-fly droning that stretched originally 5-minute-long songs to 7+, and the borderline atonal guitar solos Kozelek added on Songs For A Blue Guitar, there's a lot that was just "thrown in" for the band.
Troubled Production- Songs For A Blue Guitar and Old Ramon suffered this. Read their sections on the trope page for more info
Mark Kozelek: I know the Rollercoaster album is many people's favorite. But for me, it is and will always be the most difficult to get through. I hadn't heard it in years, and...what I remembered most, even when I look at the album's cover, is nine months of worry.
Too Soon- The music video for "All Mixed Up" exited television circulation nearly permanently after 9-11. The reason? The Twin Towers looming in the background would be enough, but to make matters worse there's a few scenes of a desperate, sad, and panicked fairy running around the courtyard of the same towers. It's actually cringe inducing when it happens. There's even a shot of the fairy crying with World Trade Center in the background as well.
Vindicated by History: Though always loved by the critics, the band was never known for being commercially successful. It wasn't until the 2000s that their fanbase really started to grow and people started recognizing them as one of the greatest bands of the 90s.
What Could Have Been- Rollercoaster was originally supposed to be a double album with the songs that originally appeared on Bridge mixed into the sequence of Rollercoaster. One has to wonder how the album would have sounded being twice as long and possibly twice as depressing.
Songs For A Blue Guitar almost ended up being changed completely into a more commercially accessible album. Kozelek fought back against Ivo Watts-Russell's meddling and was thrown off the record label due to his insistence of not letting it be changed.
Kozelek had many plans for Red House Painters after Old Ramon. He was going to create a few concept albums (one of them became Ghosts Of The Great Highway, Sun Kil Moon's first album) but after Island dropped the band, they were unable to get back in contact with each other and Kozelek had to drop some of the ideas he had.
Old Ramon was also originally going to be a double album that included a longer version of "Michigan" and a song by the name of "The Mission" that was said to have been nearly 20 minutes long.
Rollercoaster was originally going to have a fish head as an album cover. Similarly, the album cover for Ocean Beach was going to be some broken church pews or abandoned hospital beds.