Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Album Review: Mark Eitzel - Caught In A Trap And I Can't Back Out 'Cause I Love You Too Much Baby

Mark Eitzel released his third solo album in 1998.  Despite the sardonic humour of the title, this was a bleak piece of work even for him.  Most of the tracks focused on Eitzel guitar and voice.  And what a voice.  His vocals are as powerful as on any of his other albums, pushed out to the front he sounds impassioned, desperate and at times completely bereft of hope on these tracks.  After the cheery misery of Are You The Trash, proceedings get more downbeat on Xmas Lights Spin.  Picking out a simple, descending guitar part, Eitzel sings of "a man doing an imitation of Satan" on a track with very little seasonal cheer ("St Nicholas left your toys behind at the bar").

The stark music of these tracks is matched perfectly by some pretty downbeat lyrics, sung with an absence of hope but a generous helping of passion.  Auctioneer's Song with its tale of "buried underneath not moving a bone" and White Rosary about a little girl "calling to heaven to take her away from the trap her life turned out to be," with the most minimal of guitar accompaniment, Eitzel literally only plays notes that are absolutely necessary.

If I Had A Gun varies the sonic formula a little, adding Kid Congo Powers on growling electric guitar as Eitzel sings about how if he had one he would "seal my fate with you" over a gloriously miserable picked acoustic guitar.  After this they are joined by a rhythm section of Steve Shelley and James McNew for the world weary Goodbye and the uptempo trio of Queen of No One, Cold Light Of Day and Go Away.

But the acoustic tracks are the heart and sole of the album, showing off Eitzel's incredibly fine guitar picking.  Never mind your Nick Drakes etc, the closing pair of Atico 18 and Sun Smog Seahorse compare favourably with any acoustic melancholia you care to name.

Yep, sure, it's a bit much.  But as well as being a downer, it contains some of Mark Eitzel's prettiest melodies and no frills guitar playing.  Avoid this like the plague unless you like your depression leavened with a heavy dose of bleak misery.  But for the rest of us, enjoy a bravura vocal performance, that's for sure.  A shame he doesn't record his voice like this any more, as similar to his live performance, he inhabits the songs, making them sound like they really matter.