Spin - January 1992
American Music Club
Author: Johan Kugelburg
Date: January 1992
Becoming a financially successful band is a hell of a lot more difficult than becoming an artistic success. Look at American Music Club, a band that has been the darling of the critics and connoisseurs since its first album in 1986 and has a fanatical cult following in England while being almost unknown in the U.S.
This is not that uncommon for American independent bands. What's kind of strange, in a pleasant way, is that it looks like AMC is about to become the big deal it deserves to be here in the good ol' U.S. of A.
Lead vocalist and songwriter Mark Eitzel has gotten himself a reputation for being one of the most emotional and intense live performers in rock theses days, comparable to Van Morrison for vocal timbre, and George Jones or Hank Williams for sheer emotional force. The band's strength as a unit is clear once you've experienced American Music Club live. None of the brilliance of the arrangements and production of the albums gets lost live, which is something quite rare in this day and age. Talking to the band at a bar on New York's Lower East Side made it clear that AMC is a band content with what its doing and where its heading.
The lineup is an interesting hybrid of musical backgrounds - guitarists Vudi and bassist Dan Pearson's beginnings are rooted in country and western, counteracting vocalist Mark Eitzel and drummer Tim Mooney's roots in the late '70s/early '80's punk rock of "San Francisco fake-bohemian" variety. AMC's songs are all penned by Mark Eitzel and arranged by the band together.
Discussing their new album, Everclear, and the latest (of several) waves of hype washing over them, AMC's members come across as being aware of their situation; they're certainly not desperate to "make it."
"It's happened before," says bassist Dan Pearson. "Three years ago people were saying that it was about to happen, but I don't know what that 'it' is really. We're just about breaking even on this tour, and this is the first time we don't have to pay for our own food. It's really nice, though, to come to a city like Detroit where we've never played before and there's like 300 people waiting to see us."
Everclear, the bands fifth album to date, has sold far more than any of their previous titles and the crowds at its shows have increased steadily. Comparing Everclear to earlier American Music Club albums, it becomes apparent that some of the rough edges of previous discs have been trimmed away, replaced by a sound best described as Roxy Music's Avalon with hints of Nashville thrown in. Everclear is also the first disc without longtime drummer, engineer, and producer Tom Mallon, who left the band before its recording.
Says guitarist Vudi, "Tom called the shots on the previous records. Musically it was his vision, he told us when our ideas were stupid and wouldn't work. This record is a lot more democratic than anything we've ever made. Tom would not have been into anything as commercial sounding as 'Rise.'"
"Rise," the first single off Everclear, has received exhaustive airplay on college radio and become the introduction to AMC for a lot of people previously unfamiliar with the band. According to Mark Eitzel, "It's weird. A friend of mine said that people have been finding out about the band through a cousin or something, sending them a tape of some songs, and then they like it and search out all the old stuff; but now we see people at shows who don't know any of the old songs, and that's really nice!"
According to Eitzel approximately 15 new songs are written for the next album and they hope to go into the studio this spring. That's after AMC returns from it's European tour, which begins this January. And since Everclear is being released in Germany, France and the U.K., the tour will mean playing larger clubs to more people than ever before.
No other contemporary American rock 'n' roll band is as moving and rewarding to listen to or see live. Breath of fresh air, drink of spring water, you name it. American Music Club is not easy listening - it's moody and angry and sad like the harshest punk song or the prettiest country ballad. But there is a beauty and strength that's definitely worth your time and attention.