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Mark Eitzel - Music For Courage & Confidence

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Artist: Mark Eitzel

Album: Music For Courage & Confidence

Label: New West

Review date: Apr. 17, 2002

No one sounds wearier than Mark Eitzel. His is the voice of a man that's been bled dry and thrown in the gutter with his pockets turned inside-out by this bitch called life. At the helm of the mope-pop unit American Music Club from the mid 80's through the mid 90's, Eitzel preached excruciating self-loathing to a cult of too-sensitive-by-half eggheads. Judging from his recent solo work, particularly 2001's pristine, atmospheric The Invisible Man, it sounds like he's saved himself by learning the subtle art of not giving a shit.

That aside, no one's ever going to take him seriously as a martini-sipping menefreghista, however coolly he plays this set of lackadaisical covers. After penning such ruminations as "I'm an expert at all things that nature abhors / Your look of disgust when I touched your skin / And I try to figure out what the world needs me for / So I replay the scene again and again," Dino Crocetti he most definitely ain't. When he ad libs a shout-out to pomo-cheeseball joke blower Neil Hamburger as the band takes home a slick version of Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through The Night," it's provocative in more ways than one. Of course his heart isn't entirely in this angst-free exercise. The question remains, though: Who, exactly, is the joke on?

It matters little. His Novocain 'n' vodka delivery suits Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" and Phil Ochs' "Rehearsals For Retirement" just fine. His horn-laden take on Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up" is enjoyably dumb, and his surreally disembodied revision of the Andrea True Connection's unfairly neglected disco chestnut "More, More More" is almost as haunting as it wants to be. As non-challenging, non-innovative, possibly Barnumian cover albums go, you could do considerably worse.

By Emerson Dameron

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