Melody Maker - October 21, 1989

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Trial & Terror
Publication: Melody Maker
Author: Caren Myers
Date: October 21, 1989

American Music Club are quietly devastating. They stare into the starkest isolation and emptiness, breathing a kind of hushed terror. They've made me cry, and I don't cry easily. Their songs aches, but their desolation is redeemed by a sort of luminous desolation.

They capture the moments of extreme vulnerability, when you feel at your most worthless, incapable of expressing what you need without driving others away, and still reveal warmth at the heart of this alienation. And that's what makes AMC so wonderful. It's as if you took off your protective shell, exposing yourself as infinitely breakable, and they didn't hurt you, didn't hate you for it, didn't despise you for your weakness. There is plenty of sorrow and fear, but nothing so futile as despair. You feel embraced listening to AMC, not crushed.

"All people are frail," reflects AMC's singer, Mark Eitzel. "I know people who are genuinely incapable of handling the world. I'm a songwriter and I'm pretty much incapable of helping people. I don't think anyone's really capable of helping other people. You gotta help yourself. What I notice is that there are some people who can't handle it, and that's what I write about. And when I play a show I basically sing for those people in the room who are having a really bad time."

So he might have fans in San Francisco who see him as some kind of champion of their plight, but he's not the Florence Nightingale of rock. What he does do is accept people's fragilty with passion. That's already a lot.

"Once when I was a kid, I went out to this big Supertramp show and the girl whose ticket I bought never showed up. So there I was with an empty seat and Supertramp come on, and they had songs like, 'Dreamer, you're nothing but a dreamer, put your hands on your head, oh no', or 'Walk home alone,' and I hated them for that. And I still hate them to this day. I hate them with a passion and a fury. And I never want to do that if I'm onstage. I never want to do that to anybody. It's just music, but still I was a kid and it's important. I mean, 'Nothing but a dreamer'. Thank God, I'm proud of it."

Mark always wanted to be a Golden Boy. He dreamed of himself armour-plated like those happy surfing kids.