Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Album Review: American Music Club – Everclear

Apologies for another AMC post, this blog is rapidly turning into the AMC/Smog related blog! This album represented a bit of a change for American Music Club. Released in 1991, it saw them working with a half decent recording budget, which led to a fuller sound. Bruce Kaphan was now a full member of the band, and he pitched in on production, as well as steel guitar duties. Nothing of the subtlety of this band was lost with this change. It’s compounded by the vivid artwork on the cover, a painting by Jean Lowe.

The album starts with Why Won’t You Stay, a lament for a departed lover which drifts in unassumingly, with some heartbreaking lyrics from Mark Eitzel (“in memory of a little girl who was far too much in love with the world, and who didn’t wanna stick around for the end”). Rise follows, which is a bit more of a self-conscious anthem, with a very definite chorus (the fairly un- Eitzel “make it ri-i-ise”). It’s a good song, though it sounds a little dated.

The understated anthem to apathy, Miracle on 8th Street, follows, drifting along in a similar vein to the opener, but Ex-Girlfriend is less oblique, with a hard-hitting, insistent melody and fairly direct lyrics (“day to day life shouldn’t be what it’s all about”… “I guess you got no one to take care of you”) over some great guitar-hero style playing from Vudi.

The usual AMC curveball follows, Crabwalk, a cheesy country song which totally disturbs the mood, until it’s reined back in by the almost smooth The Confidential Agent, which floats along in a similar vein to Miracle, aided and abetted by the subtle steel guitar playing of Bruce Kaphan and some nice keyboards.

The album seems a little smooth up to now, but Sick of Food is angrier, with more great guitar from Vudi, and Eitzel displaying great passion towards the end. He’s angrier still on The Dead Part of You with the refrain “there’s so little of you left”. Royal Café is a gentle country-rock song and it’s followed by the beautiful What the Pillar of Salt Held Up, another sad(ish) song based around a fragile acoustic guitar.

The album resolves wonderfully with final track Jesus’ Hands. It’s basically a drinking song, Eitzel singing “I got a thirst that would make the ocean proud”. There is some really nice mandolin on this one, played by Dan Pearson.