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4.1 out of 5 stars7
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 10 September 2004
I missed out on AMC the first time around but they were one of those groups whose name cropped up as being worthwhile (like The Replacements, who are equally worthy). I was too busy listening to Husker Du, The Fall , Rain Parade, Sonic Youth etc. - anyway, they passed me by but they were probably on a wish list somewhere if only I had the time/money. My interest was piqued about 5 years ago by an article about Mark Eitzel & I have since listened to all AMC & most of Marks' albums. Glad to say that this band & this songwriter are revered for all the right reasons (ie. they are bloody good !!!). So, fortunately for me, I have only had to wait 5 years for this new album from the reformed band.
When I heard they were reforming there were none of those 'cash in, doing it for the money' thoughts as the band could hardly manage to survive the first time around (even though they were held in very high respect)& guitarist Vudi apparently needed a lot of persuading to give up his day job as a bus driver because it was a steady, reliable job (& making music isn't). Thank God he did.
Love Songs for Patriots is perhaps a typical AMC album as on initial listens there are no stand out tracks. Listening to the whole album from beginning to end is no great hardship, though. They always seem to have a consistency throughout their albums & it takes time for favourites to appear. After a couple of days Only Love Can Set You Free, Home & Myopic Books are highlights but others are sure to standout with time. Hard to say where this stands alongside greats like Everclear, California & Mercury, yet, but it definitely doesn't dissapoint & if you've had to wait 10 years congratulations, the wait was worthwhile.
Now, if only they would play live in Manchester !!!!
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on 4 October 2004
Eitzel never really went away, but he's back with a vengance. For all his excellent solo releases, this is his finest record since the last AMC album.
No one on earth can juxtapose the disheartened disdain of Patriot's Heart or Ladies and Gentlemen with the weary hopefulness of Love Is or Only Love Can Set You Free.
I only wish more people would buy their records. Otherwise, they'll split up again and it will be your fault!
If you buy this record, you won't regret it. And if you do, you don't deserve it.
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on 15 September 2004
In the early 1990s, at the peak of their powers, American Music Club were one of the most critically revered groups. Most (in)famous is Andrew Smith's Melody Maker review reproduced on the back of the solo live "Songs of Love". Smith's remarks (that Mark Eitzel had more soul in his little finger than the entire Motown back catalogue and that, if he had to make a choice between the next AMC album, and the entire history of recorded music he would choose the former) were overblown but you knew where he was coming from.
In 1993's "Mercury", for many, including me, the group's pinnacle, Eitzel's voice, lyrics and songwriting were matched by an enticing variety of instruments and effects, masterminded by producer Mitchell Froom and iconoclastic guitarist Vudi. If such experimentation in textures and sound was not quite on the level of Talk Talk's late masterpieces, it was reminiscent of Radiohead at times and elevated AMC above the rank and file of alt-country.
And yet, and yet...While a 90 minute collection of AMC's finest moments would be as good a listening experience as any, I always thought the band never fulfilled their promise. "Everclear" had at least 5 bona fide classics but was marred by a couple of songs "Rise" and "Crabwalk" which seemed overblown or contrived and marred the feel and sequence of the album. 2 albums later, when the group was poised for overdue commercial success, they released their least successful album, at least until that time, in "San Francisco" which was at least 4 songs too long and, for all the gorgeousness of a number of the tracks, smacked of an expectant record label breathing down the band's necks or self-expectation getting the better of them.
If Eitzel were once rightly regarded as the greatest American songwriter, by 1994 his crown was lost to Will Oldham of Palace fame. By the time of his solo career, Eitzel's great voice seemed to have been shot to pieces by a loss of confidence or exhaustion or some other inexplicable factor.
Perhaps because of the sense of a job unfinished, the group's decision to reform has been waited by many with bated breath. With the wait over, ten years on, how do they sound now? Well, they still sound like AMC. There are enough positives to make this a very welcome return. But, but...The album is at least 20 minutes too long and, ultimately an album of great moments rather than a great album.
The opener "Ladies and Gentlemen" starts off inauspiciously with Eitzel's strained voice proclaiming "Lay-deez and gen-nel-meh-en, its time/for all the good in you to shine". However as the instruments come in one by one with feedback, piano and drums to the fore, the songs climaxes to a solid start.
If there is nothing to match "The Nightwatchman", "Kathleen", "Western Sky", "Sick of Food" or "Apology for an Accident", third track The Patriot" is the thematic centerpiece and a devastatingly unflinching attack on contemporary America. "Only Love Can Set You Free" features Eitzel's voice in turns at is most intimate and most plaintive and melodic and, unlike elsewhere, the dense instrumentation and production enhances the song's intensity.
The concluding "The Devil Needs You" has more than a passing similarity to "Will You Find Me" which closed "Mercury". The rich deep timbre of Eitzel's voice shapes the lyrics wonderfully but makes one all the more critical of the songs like "Home" with which I could have done without - a rather tuneless number with nothing to grab the listener. Crushingly, Eitzel's voice has that croaky affect which latterly came to dominate his work. "Myopic Books" is centred around a repetitive vocal line which has little to commend it despite name checking Dinosaur Jr and Saul Bellow. "The Horseshoe Wreath In Bloom" outdoes "Ladies in Gentlemen" in off-putting opening line: "Now here's the story of the incredible shrinking man" but develops into a fine enough song.
Despite these criticisms, long term fans and the inquisitive unwashed should both purchase this album and go to almost any lengths to see them live. Welcome back.
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on 13 August 2010
American Music Club surprisingly reformed in 2004 and released this album. I've gone on record to say that in general, I don't really like the idea of bands reforming. The band were never particularly successful before they split, but at this point in time after the initial split, singer Mark Eitzel had released a haphazard series of solo albums, and the other members had some fairly low key musical projects, so it's understandable that they would regroup. But would this album live up to their former glories: California, United kingdom et al?

Opener Ladies and Gentlemen is quite unexpected, sounding not like one of their older tracks but a whole different thing. In fact it sounds like a `call-to-arms' as Eitzel sings "ladies and gentlemen it's time for all the good that's in you to shine" over an unsettling distorted guitar growl, before becoming a sort of abrasive smoky jazz track. It doesn't really work in my view but it's an interesting opener. Another Morning follows which is a much more familiar sounding track, with a jangly guitar and a fairly commercial melody. Indeed if they had put this out in the early 90s it might have given them a commercial breakthrough but that ship has long, long sailed. Lyrically it's another song about his muse Kathleen Burns (deceased at this stage) with some great imagery like "when you laughed like water breaking over a broken land".

Patriot's Heart is another smoky jazz track, which is probably better executed than Ladies and Gentlemen, but again I'm not too fond of it. The album in general is a lot denser and complex than their other albums, with a lot going on in many of the tracks. Job To Do on the surface is a simple enough song with a carefully picked guitar in the verses until heavy drums kick in for the chorus, followed by some extraordinary squalling feedback from Vudi.

Later tracks such as Mantovani the Mind Reader and America Loves The Minstrel Show sound pleasingly offkilter, almost like conventional tunes that have been slightly warped. Myopic Books is a lovely tale about wanting to visit a bookstore in winter where "the music they'd play there would be Dinosaur Jr, and the people who work there would be superskinny and super-unfriendly, and that would make me happy." This heartwarming tale turns to memories of the protagonist's mother, and all this takes place over some plaintive guitar, gentle percussion and keyboards, before drawing the conclusion "maybe the worst is over".

After the jaunty mess that is Your Horseshoe Wreath In Bloom, Song for the Rats Leaving the Sinking Ship is like the flipside to Myopic Books, in that it's acoustically based but more sombre ("you can laugh, you can cry, you can even bitterly grieve"), with a more austere guitar pattern.

Final track The Devil Needs You is arguably the most ambitious. It starts off simply enough with a straightforward descending guitar pattern, until halfway through Marc Capelle's horns enter the mix, playing out an instrumental coda which is as ambient as this band has ever got. You find yourself wanting the track to outlast the seven and a half minutes running time, it's a great way to end the album.

There are some albums which flow along nicely, one track running into the next. This is not one of them. It weaves and winds through different directions from track to track, and with several layers within many of them which reward repeated listening.
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On Love Songs for Patriots, American Music Club's mood is as dark as ever, but infused with the hope of redemption. Filled with yearning and distorted dreams delivered in the most beautifully poetic lyrics, the first three tracks Ladies and Gentleman, Another Morning and Patriot's Heart set the lugubrious but defiant tone for this masterpiece.
The drinking song Ladies and Gentleman is achingly moving in its juxtaposition of the pain of living with either truth or with lies. Patriot's Heart, about a male stripper, is a masterpiece of conflicting emotions, cynicism blended with compassion and understanding. Wow, this approach is something else, so unique and stirring.
There are also gentle and tender moments like Another Morning, an inspiring song about shaking off bitterness and depression, framed in a lovely melody and pop orchestration. Another highlight, and one with a sprinkling of humour, is the gentle ballad Myopic Books. The delicate track Love Is reminds me of their gem of a song Firefly from an earlier album, whilst Only Love Can Set You Free is an appealing love song.
The last two tracks, Song of the Rats Leaving the Sinking Ship and The Devil Needs You, are quite ambiguous and may be interpreted on both a personal and universal level. The latter is over 7 minutes long and combines a powerful drum pattern with delirious keyboards and horns to conclude the album on a high note.
As with the rest of their oeuvre, Love Songs For Patriots is not easy listening for everybody, but if you love the kind of redemptive sadness often found in the work of artists like Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, Richard Thompson, Peter Murphy, Swans, Michael Gira's Angels Of Light, Nick Cave, Emmylou Harris or Jane Siberry, you will love this welcome return by American Music Club.
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on 8 January 2015
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on 6 June 2005
I was really looking forward to this album. Unfortunately, though, whilst American Music Club have recaptured the *sound* on which their reputation is based, they appear to have forgotten to incorporate any *melodies* in this their latest output. These tracks are big on atmosphere and bluster, but very little indeed when it comes to tunefulness. That hasn't always been the case with AMC - though it is true of a couple of Eitzel's solo releases (especially the monotonous Caught in a trap ...) - so I was particularly disappointed by this recording.
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