Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Mark Eitzel - West

For Mark Eitzel's second solo album, released in 1997, he teamed up with REM's Peter Buck.  Both artists were riding high at the time, in their own particular way, having come through an imperious decade from the late 80s through to the mid 90s.  The album opens promisingly with what turns out to be it's best track, If You Have To Ask.  Dominated by strings, it features a really strong vocal by Eitzel and a clever lyric about lighting "a fire in your brain".  It's a really lush arrangement, and it suits Eitzel down to the ground, it's one of the finer songs in his solo work.  After that, we come (relatively) down to earth.  Songs like Free of Harm, Stunned and Frozen, and In Your Life are fairly straightforward, sub-REM pop-rock songs with bright guitar lines and catchy, repeated choruses.  Mark Eitzel will surely never sing a simpler chorus than "I live in your life".  The moodier side is well represented here too on Helium, Then It Really Happens and the almost apologetic Lower Eastside Tourist, any of which you could nearly imagine Michael Stipe singing.  Which is kind of the problem with this album: it's not distinctive enough, not Eitzel enough.

Chirpier moments like Three Inches of Wall and Move Myself Ahead don't suit Eitzel that well, and even when he wallows, on Old Photographs and Live or Die it seems simplistic.  The chorus of the latter is flat and obvious ("no-one cares if I live or die").

It's one album in Mark Eitzel's back catalogue that you could pop on in the background and it wouldn't really upset anyone.  Which isn't really the point with Eitzel.