American Music Club: Roxy, Los Angeles CA

American Music Club Takes Sad Songs to Upbeat Levels

“I’M THE ugliest lead singer in rock ‘n’ roll,” Mark Eitzel told the audience near the end of the American Music Club’s show at the Roxy on Wednesday. He seemed to mean it (and he could well be right), but his jocular delivery and the ongoing banter that surrounded the statement definitely played against type.

The music on which Eitzel has built his cult reputation is really pretty varied — never more so than on the AMC’s latest album, San Francisco, named for the band’s hometown — but its overwhelming impression is one of introspection and loneliness. The man behind it, you figure, should be withdrawn and visibly neurotic, and the performance should cast a dark spell with its achingly slow tempos and melancholy voicings.

But Eitzel and his three musicians (supplemented periodically by a third guitarist) were straightforward and fairly upbeat Wednesday, avoiding prolonged displays of despair as they turned ballads into piercing-guitar battlegrounds and offered high-energy rock songs reminiscent of the Replacements and Cracker.

The band’s distinctive configurations of folk, rock, jazz-tinged pop and even lounge music wore pretty well through the hour-plus set, though Eitzel’s voice seemed a little rough and restricted even by his own idiosyncratic standards. The approach made for an accessible performance, at the expense of the music’s potential to clutch the listener’s heart more insistently.

© Richard CromelinLos Angeles Times, 24 November 1994

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