If you ever find yourself hunched over a shot of whiskey in the dimly-lit
amber melancholy of a barroom, surrounded by
upturned chairs and an unsociable bartender, then this is your theme
music. This San Francisco-based band (1983-1995) flew under the radar of
mainstream radio, but they've gathered an underground appreciation as one of
the greatest American bands. Lead singer Mark Eitzel has been called a
lyrical Steinbeck by critics and it's easy to see why: the
man's a genius with the written word.
Their style ranged from folksy rock to alt-country
to slick alternative pop, with Eitzel's ragged and warbling croon and powerful
lyrics transforming their music into an exquisite and complex soul-search
through backlit streets and crooked trails. Like coffee and whiskey,
American Music Club is an acquired taste; you'll thank yourself later.
Eiztel himself was tormented with alcoholism and other unfathomable personal
demons, and the band's live concerts often transformed into compelling and bizarre
sequences as he broke down onstage.
Although Eitzel's personal darkness was the band's heart, they were capable
of expressing bouyant playfulness, which was evident in most of their
work. The band never registered here in the United States but has
developed a cult following in Europe, and Eitzel has gone on to do solo
work--even teaming with R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, who produced his most recent
If you try to grab some of their songs, I recommend picking up their live
stuff if you can.
Sublime Lyric of The Month:
Tell my why you don't sleep anymore
Tell me what you sit up all night waiting for
Are you waiting for loneliness to paralyze?
Are you waiting for sister midnight to anesthetize?