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American Music Club

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Biography

Although chosen for its deliberately nondescript qualities, in retrospect the name American Music Club was the perfect moniker for the lauded San Francisco-based band led by singer/songwriter Mark Eitzel: over the course of nine acclaimed albums, the group tied together the disparate strands of the American musical fabric -- rock, folk, country, punk, even lounge schmaltz -- into a remarkably distinct and riveting whole, creating a brilliant and cohesive body of work dappled by moments of haunting beauty and impenetrable darkness. Although born in California, Eitzel spent his formative years in Great Britain and Ohio before returning to the Bay Area in 1980 with the punk band the Naked Skinnies. After the band's breakup, he founded American Music Club in 1983 with guitarist Vudi (born Mark Pankler), bassist Dan Pearson, keyboardist Brad Johnson, and drummer Matt Norelli. Despite the skill and diversity of the other members, Eitzel quickly became the group's focal point: an evocative vocalist and gutter poet capable of composing songs of disquieting honesty and intensity, he was also frequently the band's worst enemy -- a heavy drinker since the age of 16, AMC shows often disintegrated into surreal backdrops for Eitzel's alcoholic rants and self-destructive showmanship, and throughout the group's tumultuous career, his erratic behavior led him to briefly exit their ranks on numerous occasions. Still, Eitzel quelled his demons long enough for AMC to record their 1985 debut, The Restless Stranger; later disowned by the group, the album does offer a rough outline of their increasingly eclectic sound, and firmly established Eitzel's world view, a harrowing vision of life as seen through the bottom of a shot glass. 1987's Engine honed the formula: the addition of producer Tom Mallon as a full-time member expanded the group's sonic palette, while Eitzel's songs achieved new levels of intimacy as compositions like "Outside This Bar" and "Gary's Song" grappled with the realities of the drinking life. While American Music Club languished in obscurity in their native country, they earned a solid European cult following on the strength of 1988's California, a frequently brilliant collection highlighted by the shimmering country and folk accouterments which couched fractured love songs like "Firefly" and "Western Sky"; "Blue and Grey Shirt," Eitzel's most heartfelt and powerful composition to date, was the first in a series of devastating chronicles of friends lost to the AIDS epidemic. Still, the album garnered little notice, and their next LP, 1989's United Kingdom, appeared only in the nation which lent the record its name: another superb collection drawing on leftover material and live tracks, it featured "The Hula Maiden," the first recorded fruits of Eitzel's growing fascination with lounge crooning. After a solo acoustic Eitzel release, 1991's Songs of Love, American Music Club emerged with its masterpiece, Everclear, a remarkable song cycle released to phenomenal critical acclaim (and the usual negligible commercial interest). Still, the lavish praise heaped on Everclear (named in honor of a vicious, 180-proof transparent liquor) finally made the major labels take notice, and a bidding war ensued. After months of negotiations, AMC -- now consisting of Eitzel, Vudi, Pearson, multi-instrumentalist Bruce Kaphan, and drummer Tim Mooney -- signed with Reprise in the U.S. and Virgin throughout the rest of the world, and entered the studio with acclaimed producer Mitchell Froom. The result, 1993's Mercury, was a typically iconoclastic effort featuring unwieldy song titles like "What Godzilla Said to God When His Name Wasn't Found in the Book of Life" and "The Hopes and Dreams of Heaven's 10,000 Whores" resting uneasily against lush, obtuse gems like "If I Had a Hammer," "Apology for an Accident," and "Johnny Mathis' Feet." Despite glowing reviews, Mercury fared poorly on the charts, and earned virtually no recognition from radio or MTV. In 1994, AMC issued San Francisco, an erratic collection which precariously balanced stark, moving confessions like "Fearless" and "The Thorn in My Side Is Gone" alongside slick pop constructs such as "Wish the World Away" and "Can You Help Me." When San Francisco failed to connect, American Music Club finally dissolved; in 1996, Eitzel issued his proper solo debut, 60 Watt Silver Lining, a collection of torch songs. At the end of the year, he and producer Peter Buck of R.E.M. returned to the studio to record 1997's West. In 2003, Eitzel and Vudi announced that American Music Club were reuniting, and following short tours of Europe and the United States, the group's new album, Love Songs for Patriots, was released in the fall of 2004, with more live shows scheduled in support. The group then relocated to Los Angeles, although Pearson and Mooney opted to stay behind in San Francisco. L.A. locals Sean Hoffman (bass) and Steve Didelo (drums) were enlisted to replace the two departing members, and the revised lineup set to work on The Golden Age, which was released in February 2008. ~ Jason Ankeny
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Top Tracks

  1.   Track
    Popularity
  2.   All My Love
  3.   Why Won't You Stay
  4.   Chanel # 5
  5.   Decibels and the Little Pills
  6.   What the Pillar of Salt Held Up
  7.   The Sleeping Beauty
  8.   All the Lost Souls Welcome You to San Francisco
  9.   Love Is
  10.   Myopic Books
  11.   Gratitude Walks
  12.   Johnny Mathis' Feet
  13.   Will You Find Me?
  14.   The Dance
  15.   Royal Cafe
  16.   Rise
  17.   The John Berchman Victory Choir
  18.   One Step Ahead
  19.   Pale Skinny Girl
  20.   Sick of Food
  21.   Outside This Bar
  22.   Only Love Can Set You Free
  23.   The Stars
  24.   Another Morning
  25.   I've Been a Mess
  26.   Apology for an Accident
  27.   Goodbye to Love
  28.   The Hula Maiden
  29.   Dallas, Airports, Bodybags
  30.   Animal Pen
  31.   United Kingdom
  32.   Crabwalk
  33.   Kathleen
  34.   Miracle on 8th Street
  35.   Restless Stranger
  36.   Who You Are
  37.   Jesus' Hands
  38.   The Grand Duchess of San Francisco
  39.   The Windows on the World
  40.   On My Way
  41.   All Your Jeans Were Too Tight
  42.   Highway
  43.   If I Had a Hammer
  44.   The Victory Choir
  45.   Your Horseshoe Wreath Will Bloom
  46.   The Devil Needs You
  47.   Song of the Rats Leaving the Sinking Ship
  48.   The Horseshoe Wreath in Bloom
  49.   Home
  50.   Mantovani the Mind Reader
  51.   Job to Do
  52.   Patriot's Heart
  53.   Ladies and Gentlemen
  54.   California Dreamin'
  55.   Tell Yourself
  56.   $1,000,000 Song
  57.   Room Above the Club
  58.   Cape Canaveral
  59.   Wish the World Away
  60.   Love Doesn't Belong
  61.   Can You Help Me?
  62.   The Confidential Agent
  63.   Fearless
  64.   Western Sky
  65.   Jenny
  66.   Now You're Defeated
  67.   Bad Liquor
  68.   Blue and Grey Shirt
  69.   Laughingstock
  70.   Somewhere
  71.   Heaven of Your Hands
  72.   Never Mind
  73.   Here They Roll Down
  74.   Art of Love
  75.   Hello Amsterdam
  76.   I'll Be Gone
  77.   The Thorn In My Side is Gone
  78.   Dream Is Gone
  79.   Hopes and Dreams of Heaven's 10,000 Whores
  80.   Over and Done
  81.   What Godzilla Said to God When His Name Wasn't Found in the Book of Life
  82.   Hollywood 4-5-92
  83.   Challenger
  84.   More Hopes and Dreams
  85.   In the Shadow of the Valley
  86.   Ex-Girlfriend
  87.   I Broke My Promise
  88.   The Revolving Door
  89.   What Holds the World Together
  90.   On a Clear Day
  91.   The Dead Part of You
  92.   Elbow Deep
  93.   Mr. Lucky
  94.   Broken Glass
  95.   Goodbye Reprise #54
  96.   When Your Love Is Gone
  97.   Yvonne Gets Dumped
  98.   It's Your Birthday
  99.   Keep Me Around
  100.   Hold on to Your Love
  101.   Heavenly Smile
  102.   How Low?
  103.   The Right Thing
  104.   I Just Took My Two Sleeping Pills and Now I'm Like a Bridgroom Standing At the Altar
  105.   This Year
  106.   Clouds
  107.   America Loves the Minstrel Show
  108.   Asleep
  109.   How Many Six Packs Does It Take to Screw in a Light
  110.   Away Down My Street (Live @ the Hotel Utah)
  111.   The President's Test For Physical Fitness
  112.   Mom's TV
  113.   I'm in Heaven Now
  114.   At My Mercy
  115.   Point of Desire
  116.   I Know That's Not Really You
  117.   Big Night
  118.   Gary's Song
  119.   Shut Down (Live @ the Hotel Utah)
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