Melody Maker - February 1, 1992

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Frown Time Is Over
Publication: Melody Maker
Author: Caren Myers
Date: February 1, 1992

Vudi, American Music Club's guitarist, has the music press sussed.

"We represent the great loneliness that lies at the heart of the American experience," he intones, hollowly. "The big emptiness."

"Sort of like Montana," adds Tim, the drummer cheerfully.

"Wyoming," says Mark Eitzel.

Vudi raises a bony finger. "Loneliness in America is not a lonely man or a lonely woman in a room." He's speaking in an inexplicably-fake Norwegian accent. The fact that he's dressed up like Frank Spencer in "Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em" doesn't help either. "American loneliness is everywhere. Around the family dinner tableIn the office. In the car...."

Er, Vudi? I think we-

"On the job. In the mines. Everywhere from the skies you can hear the great cry, American man, woman, child, lonely, crying..."

Okay, okay, stop.

"....crying." Extra hollow: "Crying."

Mark: "Whining."

All right, already! ENOUGH!

Enough. So maybe there has been a tendency to eulogize AMC in the most baroque manner, but the praise was always heartfelt and often inspired. Inspired because the albums, from The Restless Stranger to last October's wondrous Everclear, contained songs that were so moving and so disturbing that you never felt quite yourself when you discussed them. So maybe it was a little precious. So maybe it lends itself to parody. So sue us.

However, that kind of reverence seems misplaced when dealing with this motley five-some, which also includes Bruce Kaphan, the professorial keyboard player, and the pleasingly-grouchy Dan Pearson. The songs are no less heartbreaking. But the people, well, they seem ready to fight for their right to be accepted without fussiness, to be their normal, everyday, loopy selves. And Mark Eitzel, in particular, has had enough of people approaching him like he's a troubled character in need of saving.

He's still fuming about being included in Sounds' "Rock Nutters" round-up.

Dan: "They called you a rock martyr?"

Mark: "Nutter. N-U-T-T-E-R. Like i'm out of my mind. So now I'm afraid people'll think I'm crazy. Especially now, I keep thinking people have this idea of me the personality, things that I'm expected to say and do. Like last week, having journalist after journalist after journalist ask me, 'Are you sad? Are you gonna kill yourself?' I'm like, 'NO! No, no. I write these songs - can I just write the motherfucking songs? Leave me the fuck alone!' And all these people asking me if I'm going to kill myself tomorrow is really, really, really starting to bother me."

"But it has to be," says Vudi, reasonably. "'Cos people like your music, so you become like their favorite soap opera character. I feel that way about other pop figures. And, once you start to identify with them that way, it's precious. And you love it, it makes you feel all warm and squishy inside."

Mark doesn't answer that. It strikes me that he's an incredibly difficult person to know.

"This guy from Manchester came down to see us, so I hung out with him and basically tried to turn on the personality, just 'cos that creates a distance between myself & other people, and I like that. If I was gonna be myself, I'd sit in a corner and not talk to a soul. That would be my choice."

Fair enough. And I do notice one thing. He doesn't fidget anymore. Come to think of it, he seems a whole lot more together than I am this morning, since I'm struggling with the logistics of conducting the "Respecting Mark's Privacy AMC Interview" while the ultimate respecting of someone's privacy is not to interview them at all.

But that's cool. To be honest I was getting sick of the "tortured artist ripping himself open for an uncaring world" business myself. I like this new, dry-eyed deal, the way I like the no-nonsense approach of the American press release, which dismisses the Maker view that "the world doesn't deserve Eitzel."

"You do," it says. "You deserve the whole damn Club."

Reading. It's the first night of the British tour, and the mood is pretty relaxed. Dan is scowling. Mark is gossiping - someone mentioned Hole and Mark is gleefully telling me about Tim's, erm, Love connection.

The gig is chaotic and funny and affecting, with a healthy quota of new songs - "What Godzilla Said To God When His Name Wasn't Found In The Book Of Life", "Keep Me Around", "The Hopes And Dreams Of Heaven's 10,000 Whores" - that are all instantly necessary to my well being and future happiness.

But Mark is getting on my nerves. With Brechtian perverseness, he keeps intruding on whatever wistful reveries the songs send me into, and apologizing. I look around; everybody seems enraptured.

"Sorry," Mark blurts out again. I would just love to yell, "Pull yourself together, for fuck's sake! But I'm too polite.

The next morning, at breakfast, I blow my cool. Don't you guys ever get the urge to grab Mark and yell "Pull yourself together, for fuck's sake!" Dan considers this for a minute.

"Sometimes, on stage," he says finally. "When I'm feeling bad for Mark 'cos he's obviously looking for what button to push. Not in life."

"Yeah, just onstage," adds Vudi. "When he tries to sing a song an octave higher than it should be sung."

"The apologizing I will never do again," says Mark.

Really?

"Absolutely."

"Yeah," mutters Dan, "you've said that about 50,000 times."

I just don't understand why you do it. Why say "Sorry" when "Thank you" would suffice?

"But I'm not thankful: I'm sorry. That's why I had a bad night last night, 'cos I felt like, 'Mark, shut up, play the song'. I was driving myself crazy but I couldn't stop."

I'm sorry.

MARK'S SECRET TALENT
"I can file. You bet I can fucking file! Ask me anything, ask me what letters come between what letters..."

Where's L?

"Between, um, um... No, I have job skill! Plus I know D-base 3+."

So what would happen if you settled down and had, say, two kids and a dog?

"I'd feel like my like had come to an end."

VUDI'S CRAP CANADIAN JOKE
We hadn't even ordered our bacon and eggs and tins of peeled plum tomatoes yet, when Vudi felt compelled to divulge the dream he had last night.

"I was standing naked on this huge plain, completely alone, holding a condom in my hand. And, for some reason, I decided to put the condom on my penis. And, as I did, I grew tumescent and my penis stretched out over the plain, this giant elongation of latex and tumescence."

That's a very safe kind of sex dream.

"Yeah. What could be safer than being absolutely alone?"

Mark: "With a condom on. You were fucking the world! Safely."

Vudi: "Wanna hear my Canadian joke?"

Does it involve condoms?

"Just don't print it. How do you get 25, no, 15 Canadians out of your swimming pool? You say: 'Hey you 15 Canadians, get out of the pool!'"

We all laugh. I don't get it. But that's cool. Let me keep some mystery, for fucks sake.