American Music Club: Love Songs for Patriots

American Music Club
Love Songs for Patriots
(Merge)

This is a welcome return after a decade of solo and other projects, and it finds the band in fine form, indeed. Once named music’s best songwriter by Rolling Stone, Mark Eitzel’s pen and tongue are both still as sharp as ever.

However, the music here reminds you of what the rest of the players contributed to AMC’s distinctive sound (and why Eitzel’s solo efforts sometimes succumb entirely to the undertow of his torment). The record begins with the singer’s trademark caterwaul, followed immediately by some thundering distortion, courtesy of guitarist Vuti. But then this noise is undercut with a subtle piano-and-ride-cymbal melody, and all these sounds struggle awkwardly to coexist to the end of the song. Similar contradictions abound: “Job to Do” descends into a cacophony of crashing instruments, while the band strikes a tender chord on “Only Love Can Set You Free.”

But American Music Club excel in transcending such oppositions, and Eitzel’s lyrics offer portraits of the kinds of messy realities that are at odds with our country’s ascendant Manichean worldview. In the gay male stripper with a “Patriot’s Heart,” Eitzel seems to half-envy the purity and simplicity of the unabashed pursuit of money and sin, but this notion finds its counterpoint in “America Loves the Minstrel Show,” about our penchant for liars. On the album’s centerpiece, “Home,” Eitzel issues an impassioned wish to “make it home,” over a swelling score that perfectly matches his intensity. I think he and his band are there on Love Songs for Patriots. Do your part: buy American (Music Club).