Saturday, May 8, 2010

Album Review: American Music Club - San Francisco

After the dispiriting experience (for the band at least) of Mercury, American Music Club went another direction for 1994’s San Francisco. Which is not to say it’s a mainstream album. Indeed as an album of 15 tracks, many of which are quite disparate, it’s nothing short of sprawling.

Fearless, the opening track, kicks off with Bruce Kaphan’s steel guitar prominent in the mix before Mark Eitzel’s moody vocals come in, singing “lost again…” in a lovelorn lament. It’s a lovely sounding song, though for my money the lyrics on this are a little obvious. In fact the lyrics on this album in my opinion are a little disappointing when compared with previous albums.

It’s Your Birthday appears to be a response to touring with Pearl Jam and the prevailing grunge sound of the time as it is a kind of self-consciously aggressive sounding song, while Can You Help Me? is a more pleasant sounding song. It sounds quite commercial, but it’s actually a really good song, with a ‘proper’ verse and chorus. It should have been a hit, but perhaps Eitzel and co weren’t wearing the right plaid shirts and goatees.

Love Doesn’t Belong to Anyone is another track featuring prominent steel guitar, and again it’s quite pretty, with delicate picked guitar. It does not, however, feel important, in the same way that some of their previous work does. After the fairly ordinary Wish the World Away we get a kind of left turn with the classicly titled How Many Six Packs Does It Take To Screw in a Light, which is a sort of quirky kind of song. Cape Canaveral which follows is a lot more downbeat as the bands instruments coalesce into a magnificently gloomy murk.

After Hello Amsterdam which is the requisite AMC ‘clunker’ on this album, the rest of the album features a great streak of really strong songs, musically in any case. The Revolving Door has a soaring melody and a great vocal performance from Mark Eitzel, The band sound quite polished on this one, whereas next track In The Shadow of the Valley is another slab of magnificently brooding, gloomy murk in the vein of Cape Canaveral.

What Holds The World Together is an acoustic led, almost torch song, slightly reminiscent of the Smiths but featuring a gloriously big chorus where Eitzel sings that “the world is held together by the wind that blows through Gena Rowlands’ hair.” Clearly. I Broke My Promise is another quite polished track which references muse Kathleen Burns. The Smiths are invoked again on sparse acoustic track The Thorn In My Side Is Gone, and I’ll Be Gone is a pleasing slab of melodrama.

It’s a curious collection which features some very strong songs, but not sure it ‘holds together’ that well as an album. There are a few mediocre moments, a bit like these blogposts.