American Music Club
AMC BIOG 2008 – un edited
In 2008, AMC released their 9th long player studio album, ‘The Golden Age’. UNCUT Magazine has already called it their best since 1993’s masterpiece, “Mercury”. This follows 2004 release of the much lauded “Love Songs For Patriots” which had the Guardian calling lead singer and songwriter Mark Eitzel “America’s greatest living lyricist”.
American Music Club was formed in San Francisco back in 1982, by Eitzel after he moved out from Ohio back to his native California. The band initially had a steady revolving door of musicians none of which were to make it to the next year. Eitzel had spent most of his teen years growing up in Southampton, England where he witness the UK punk movement first hand, providing him with the musical background he would build upon in these early years. 1983 brought with it band stalwarts Vudi on guitar and Danny Pearson on bass who shared with Eitzel a love for rock, country, blues, folk, pop and punk, synthesizing it into an incredibly unique and engaging musical melting pot. Eitzel’s enigmatic presence, heartfelt vocals and brilliant song writing were predominantly featured alongside Vudi’s highly original guitar playing. Songs often became an unpredictable wedding between their free-form jazz tendencies and Eitzel’s downbeat poetics.
The band debut release, ‘Restless Stranger’, gathered little attention on it’s initial release in 1985, it was AMCs American answer to Joy Division, stepped in post punk and featuring the first of Eitzels many classic songs, “Outside this Bar”, a theme Eitzel carries to this day. 1987 saw the bands first UK release “Engine” shortly followed by what many critics call the first of their three masterpieces, “California”. The next year built on their new found British following with the UK only release aptly titled “United Kingdom” a collection of live tracks and superb studio tracks, not merely a stop gap record but a release that still stands on its own to this day. Like many US bands (Green on Red, Gun Club etc) at this time, AMC found more attention on European shores than back in the States. “Everclear” came in 1991 with the work of pedal steel maestro Bruce Kaphlan, it landed Eitzel “Best Songwriter of the Year” in Rolling Stone Critics Poll, not to mention a “Hot Band” pick from the same publication. With all this attention and sell out performances now on both sides of the Atlantic the major labels came in for release number six in 1993 “Mercury” which is considered by many to be a masterpiece of modern popular music and their most focused record. The band’s live shows were incendiary and unpredictable sets verying between quite acoustic moments to soaring guitar, pedal steel heights which dynamics would match that of the Bad Seeds or the Bunnymen on their best nights. They played with Bob Dylan, Pearl Jam, Bad Seeds, incessantly touring through the early 90s. The band settled down in the spring of 1994 to produce a set of songs that emphasized the line-up’s steadiness and a wealth of new perspective. They called it ‘San Francisco’, their seventh album, which laid claim to their critical birthright in an album full of introspective songs that twisted and turned like the ambivalent emotions that created them. Again critically hailed it failed to produce the radio hit that they needed to move on to the next level Soon after, American Music Club split up, albeit amicably, in 1995.
Eitzel went on to create of reservoir of much loved solo efforts, including 60 Watt Silver Lining for Virgin, then moving over to Matador Records for Caught in A Trap which included members of Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo. The electronic based Invisible Man followed by and Mark began the new century with two albums worth of covers. Danny went on to play with Clodhopper, and release his solo recordings. Vudi fronts LA band Clovis de Foret as well as playing with 80s revisionists Ariel Pink while Tim Mooney started his own Closer studios.
Interest in the band grew with the likes of Divine Comedy recording AMC’s “Johnny Mathis Feet” with a thirty piece orchestra. Calexico, Lambchop, M Ward, Willard Grant, Steve Wynn and Chris & Carla soon followed recording AMC covers for an AMC tribute album “Come on Beautiful”. With heavyweights Coldplay, Radiohead, REM and Pearl Jam publicly proclaimed their love for AMC, offers for them to reform came in from Europe.
In the summer of 2003, AMC got back together for a sold out performance at London’s Southbank Centre and began recording together again. Eitzel had been working on a batch of songs and the band decided that these would be the seeds for what would become a new record “Love Songs for Patriots”. UNCUT gave it Album of the Month 5 star review and said it was “Absolutely Fu*king Brilliant…this band belongs together ” the rest of the European press was as equally. The band followed this up with a European and US tour and straight onto composing and performing a live soundtrack to the silent film classic “Street Angel” in San Francisco…sadly the European tour for the film was cancelled due to major problems obtaining a workable film print for touring.
Four years later and the band came back with “The Golden Age” written and recorded over much of 2007, it sees the band exploring their quieter side. It also sees a new rhythm section for this release with Steve Didelot on drums and Sean Hoffmann on bass & guitars. While not disbanding the old line up Eitzel felt that he wanted to involve Vudi more with the recordings than he was able to on “Love Songs for Patriots” and the only way was to move to Los Angeles where Vudi lived and worked. Vudi had been working with a local rhythm section from a band called the Larks for the AMC rehersals as it was not convenient for Danny or Tim to go to LA constantly. After months of rehearsal Eitzel felt the line up was far better suited to the new material so they have stayed. The band embarked on their longest ever tour early in 2008 which ended with a show at the Bennicasim Festival. Shortly after this the group disbanded and reformed with a new line-up including Mark, Vudi and Steve as well as members of Bee and Flower: Dana Schechter on bass, on Jonathan Heine on second guitar. While many of the early 2008 shows didn’t work for the fans, this new line-up breathed life into the band and gave fans some of their best shows since 2004.
Sadly on June 15th of this year, 2012, Tim Mooney died of an heart attack. Tim was the best drummer the band ever had and was instrumental in the bands sound on all the records he played on or produced. Tim had a very unique and dynamic style of drumming that made for the best AMC shows and possibly best ever live shows by any band this author has seen.
At this point in time:
Vudi works and lives in Los Angeles
Mark continues with his solo career
Danny plays from time to time in the Bay Area (and lives in the mountains North of it)
Bruce Kaplan – releases records of his own and produces others from the bay area
Tom Mallon – works in the bay area and plays with the Toiling Midgets. He owns the first four AMC albums and we hope he will re-release them soon!