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American Music Club - Love Songs For Patriots

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Artist: American Music Club

Album: Love Songs For Patriots

Label: Merge

Review date: Oct. 13, 2004

Seldom has a musician born a more egocentric MO than American Music Club’s Mark Eitzel. His music has never been acceptable background fodder. His off-kilter voice and free-associative lyrics assume front and center, always. The aural backdrop can alter the context, but the content remains the same. It’s well nigh impossible to immerse oneself in anything bearing the man’s name without dwelling on the text. He’s a literate depressive’s Springsteen.

Thus, this isn’t so much the first AMC record in awhile as the sturdiest, most bottom-heavy Eitzel record in awhile. Following 1994’s triumphant San Francisco, AMC ostensibly disbanded for a spell. Eitzel then released a series of solo outings, which didn’t sound remarkably unlike his band’s work. No longer tethered by the band’s fat drums, subterranean bass and sneering guitar, they often drifted into jazzy ether. But they remained Eitzel records, as Love Songs For Patriots is an Eitzel record, with reinstated substance.

So the ass is back, but that ain’t the only reason Patriots is cause for relief, if you’ve ever cared what Mark was doin’. Having scraped most of the tear-stained lint from his bellybutton, our boy is hitting the bars again. The new album’s highlights are snapshots of hopeless revelry, wherein a neighborhood dive can become the center of the universe, at least until the lights come up. “Ladies and Gentleman” documents the sort of megalomaniacal daring a righteous drinker starts to feel around the time he’s outlasted the Happy Hour dilettantes, but before his noodle has fully glazed over. “Don’t hide anymore / It’s time to be seen… If you can’t live with the truth / Go ahead, try and live / With a lie.” It’s a false dichotomy, natch. Eitzel mines the middle ground, and, for three swinging minutes, lives with a kick-ass delusion. Then there’s “Patriot’s Heart,” the unauthorized chronicle of a seedy gay bar as a final outpost of red, white and blue survivalism.

“Love Is” echoes Eitzel’s airy electronic experiments from his 2001 solo disc The Invisible Man, but blessed with the aforementioned AMC anchor, it both sparkles and endures. It’s also a fine example of his tendency to be both erudite and completely fucking clueless. “We’re so small / Compared to a lullaby / I didn’t mean to make you cry.” Warbled as though that would somehow make it all better. You’re the king, Mark.

Of course, where there's drunken indulgence, a hangover must follow. As it moves on, Eitzel falls back into the scatterbrained, gut-wrenching regret that defined his old stuff (“Myopic Books,” “America Loves the Minstrel Show”), while alternately encouraging the rest of us to keep believing (“Only Love Can Set You Free”). Expecting more of others than you do of yourself – now that’s patriotism.

By Emerson Dameron

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