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As the critically acclaimed San Franciscan quintet got tired of rave reviews and low album sales, they opted to turbo-charge their sound by emphasizing guitarist Vudi's distorted rave-ups at the expense of the subtler shadings of Bruce Kaphan's pedal steel. As AMC's final album, it's a schizophrenic landmark. The striking quiet numbers ("Fearless," "Cape Canaveral"), the Pepsi Generation power anthems ("It's Your Birthday," "Wish the World Away"), the funky dance party groovers ("I'll Be Gone," "Can You Help Me?"), and the oblique cuts ("In the Shadow of the Valley") all meet butt up against one another to make for an exciting, eclectic collection that never quite comes together. But brilliant, nonetheless. --Rob O'Connor
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The new listener will gravitate to the fast numbers like "Wish The World Away" ("Don't watch TV, it's all lies/I watch TV day and night"), and "It's Your Birthday," which include catchy hooks among Mark Eitzel's quiet howls of desperation.
But what's he desperate for? This isn't an album of "oh, nobody likes me and I just want to be loved," but rather an exploration of isolation, of not belonging in the world around him. One senses that American Music Club view themselves as separated from society and live on the edges. This isn't a group that wants to be a part of that society, though...at least not on the surface. Deep inside, this is truly music of longing, of desire...as rich and strong as any that came before.
But they also have a curious apathy about life itself--"Sometimes it's good to be alive, sometimes it's all right" they sing. Not for nothing have some called American Music Club's music 'sadcore.' But there's also something welcoming about these tracks. The rich lushness of the music along with Eitzel's mournful voice invite you to sit down with them at the seedy corner bar of life and commiserate about life's personal injustices, albeit in a supremely poetic fashion.
And just like those guys at the corner bar, there are flashes of humor here and there, self-deprecating as it may be. Nowhere is this more true than on "Hello Amsterdam," a first person tale of playing ABBA covers in a Netherlands club. The pathos is muted by the absurdity of the situation, and it's among the album's highlights.
Other great songs on the album include "Can You Help Me" and "Cape Canaveral," but really, there's not a miss in the bunch.
American Music Club is leading a career of quiet desperation, no doubt, but the song is out there to be shared. An excellent album.