Mark Eitzel – Don’t Be A Stranger (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
WHEN Mark Eitzel sings “let’s go toast the twilight” over the opening seconds of album opener I Love You But You’re Dead, you could be forgiven for thinking that the ensuing record would be more celebratory than it is.
Instead, Don’t Be A Stranger is a moody offering from the former American Music Club front-man, which seems to have been born out of the bad luck he has suffered in recent times. This includes a heart attack that set him back several months, as well as the implosion of the aforementioned American Music Club.
Ironic, then, that the songs had initially been penned for use on AMC’s next album, before Eitzel decided they would be more appropriate for a solo offering, only to suffer the heart attack in May 2011 that kept him out of circulation until the following October.
Whether that makes Don’t Be A Stranger a good album is a different point entirely, however. For while certainly a tribute to perseverance on Eitzel’s behalf, it’s perhaps a little too low-key to really stand out.
Songs like I Love You But You’re Dead, with its haunted feel, and Oh Mercy, which contains a comical sense of irony (“look I haven’t spoken to anyone for days, but I’ve bought all this beer”), are quietly endearing and effective by virtue of their straight-ahead approach to song-writing.
But Eitzel seldom raises the tempo and sometimes slows down the pace to ponderous, with songs like All My Love and Why Are You With Me? struggling to get going in spite of the heartfelt sentiment behind the lyrics. Indeed, they sometimes owe more to the style of Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner than American Music Club, another acquired taste.
This same criticism inhibits the overall enjoyment of a wonderfully written song like Lament For Bobo The Clown, which kind of underlines the sombreness inherent throughout, and even Break The Champagne, which finds Eitzel lamenting: “I wish you’d like the songs I sing.”
Sadly, we really wanted to like them more too, in spite of some interesting moments.
Download picks: I Love You But You’re Dead, Oh Mercy, Your Waiting