Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mark Eitzel's Don't Be a Stranger

I'm headed to Chicago for the weekend, but not before posting a link to Mark Eitzel's latest solo album, reviewed today at Dusted.

Mark Eitzel
Don’t Be A Stranger
Merge

Mark Eitzel has always had lounge pop tendencies, a slick melodic penchant that he’s undercut in his American Music Club and solo work with various kinds of violence. Last time around, with the American Music Club reunion album Golden Age, he used long-time collaborator Vudi’s guitar to roil his cabaret songs with danger. Now, on his sixth solo album, Don’t Be a Stranger, he sticks mostly to a piano-bar palette of sounds — lovely minimal jazz piano by Larry Golding, reticent drums from Elvis Costello associate Pete Thomas, a modest string section and Vudi again, though in much quieter mode — to frame his songs. The necessary darkness comes, this time, from the lyrics, which are lacerating, self-loathing and devastatingly clever.

Eitzel wrote most of these songs after suffering a heart attack in May 2011, so, perhaps not surprisingly, Don’t Be a Stranger is a skull-beneath-the-skin kind of record. It is permeated throughout by observations on the nearness of death, the fa├žade-ish falsity of life and the ways people distract themselves (love, music) from these essential realities. In this vein, the single, “I Love You But You’re Dead,” is its strongest song. It conveys all at once the seedy glamour, the existential futility, the inexplicable uplift of making rock music. Eitzel dives into a scene so particularly observed that you see beer-soaked stages, rotten carpets on plywood, a singer crawling on their hands and knees, bands turned weightless with sheer obliterating volume, but he holds himself apart. The last line of the song is chilling: “I control my arms and my legs and my hands and my hair and my face, like I’m holding a gun in a video game.”


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You can stream the whole thing at Paste.

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