Mission: Immersion 8.0 – California by American Music Club

Frontier 1988

Thank heavens for Love Garden Sounds and Kief’s Music. Thanks to these amazing record stores, I am able to live in Kansas without having to buy my CDs and vinyls from Hastings (OK, I bought one vinyl from Hastings ONCE, but it was a copy of one of my all-time favorite records – Meat Puppets II – for fifteen bucks, so sue me). Both stores always have all sorts of awesome stuff, like this American Music Club record I acquired at Love Garden. I can’t imagine there are tons of Kansas folks who really dig on AMC, since head songwriter Mark Eitzel is so stubborn about making his songs as slow and depressing as possible. Perhaps the Kansan who bought this copy of California originally saw the name American Music Club and expected some sort of Ted Nugent or Allman Brothers Band kind of thing, and if that’s the case, I would have paid over a million dollars to see their reaction to the opening track “Firefly” before they immediately took it to Love Garden to sell it back. And I would have laughed at them, because they are stupid – “Firefly” is a damn fine tune. One of my pet peeves about people and music is when folks hear something and say “It’s just really not my thing.” I always think, OK, so you can only stand listening to one style of music? Like, all P.O.D., all the time? How fucking boring and closed-minded of you!

Granted, because of sheer melancholy alone, Eitzel is not everyone’s cup of tea – it actually took me quite awhile to warm up to him. Years, even. He’s on par with songwriters like Mark Kozelek, only compared to Kozelek’s deadpan delivery, Eitzel often sounds like he is in physical pain, or possibly dying. He’s one of those songwriters you can listen to for years and years and years and never get it until finally, one day it’s all foggy and cold out and you feel totally alone and depressed or just kind of sad or whatever and BOOM! It works. Everything has to fall into place for it to work, but it eventually does. This is why Eitzel will most likely never find a place in the mainstream, but will always be able to float by on cult status alone – once you get him, you’re a fan for life.

California is AMC’s third record, and though it isn’t quite their best, it definitely has a few of their best songs. “Firefly”, “Blue and Grey Shirt” and “Last Harbor” are all wonderfully gut-wrenching and beautiful tunes, and though they still probably won’t jump out of the speakers to a first-time Eitzellian, it’s the kind of music that rewards committed patience. California contains one horrible song (“Bad Liqour”, which sounds like the band fucking around in the studio) and a few that are kinda blah, but I gave this record three spins last night, and it got better with each one. ****

Listening again? Definitely

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