The InsiderOne Daily Report
Thursday, May 10, 2001
Mark Eitzel Proclaims His Joy
InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: I remember calling Mark Eitzel from a pay phone near Yosemite during the summer of 1991. The night before, I'd been listening to the American Music Club album, California, on headphones as I walked through the "city camp" in the mountains, where I was vacationing. I called Mark because I wanted him and the other members of AMC to make a country-western album for a new record label I was starting (didn't happen the C&W album, that is), and I remember telling him how amazing the music of the American Music Club music sounded in nature. I wanted to sit on the front porch of a cabin and listen to it over and over. Listening to the new three-song single, Proclaim Your Joy, that precedes Eitzel's new solo album, The Invisible Man, which Matador will release May 22, reminded me of standing outside in the dark talking to Eitzel on that pay phone. The lead-off track, "Proclaim Your Joy," is Eitzel at his most playful, which means you have never heard Eitzel sound like this before. Racing along to a sing-song melody, the song brings to mind Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues." "Some build coffins some drink coffee some sing and dance," is how it begins, lyrics delivered rapid-fire and on and on and into the chorus (or "drunken background wailing," as it is put in the liner notes): "It is important throughout your life to proclaim your joy." This is not the glum or angry Mark Eitzel we know from older albums. The second song, "Tell It to the Lonely Fairy in the Forest [a rural gambol]" is more the Eitzel we know, opening with the line "Did you just escape from the halfway house/ Did time drag behind those walls," the music alternating from folky to jazzy. Both solo and as the frontman of AMC, Eitzel played the tragic loser, the guy dealt a bad hand again and again, the guy who lived in a shitty flat overlooking 17th and Capp Streets, where the really fucked-up, drugged-up hookers wait. That's the Eitzel we get for "Tell It to the Lonely...." I've never been able to figure out if that's just a character, or if some of that really is Eitzel. But then, figuring him out has never been easy. He's a complex guy who would literally walk in off the street and onto the stage, and then vanish just as quickly. Did Eitzel live the life he sang about, or was (is) he a great writer, observing and then writing about his observations? Or both? The singer isn't the song, at least some of the time. The singer may be singing someone else's song. It makes sense that some years ago Peter Buck and Eitzel made an album together (West). That other singer Buck works with makes a point of clarifying that the characters in his songs, or from whose perspective his songs are sung, aren't him. So maybe Eitzel is just playing a different character when he sings, with joy in his voice, "It is important throughout your life to proclaim your joy." Contrast that with the guy in "Tell It to the Lonely..." who sings, "Are the other passengers cold and strange/ Do they remind you that your life isn't really your own?" I'm intrigued by the title of Eitzel's upcoming album, The Invisible Man, which I haven't yet heard. You can take the title a lot of ways, especially coming from an artist who burned so bright in the mid-'90s, but has been dimming ever since, to the point where who even knew that Eitzel was still making albums? (It's not that his talent has dimmed it's been strong on everything he's done but his presence has seemed to fade until he became an invisible man.) The timing was wrong for American Music Club they should have been embraced by American rock fans. It was still wrong when Eitzel released his first few solo albums. I'd like to think that perhaps now, with Low getting acclaim and the Red House Painters back and touring, Eitzel's time has finally come. Anyway, some of us will buy anything with Mark Eitzel's name on it. If I could find his number, I'd call him and tell him that.
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Michael Goldberg is the president of insiderone.net. He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.