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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eitzel's shiny 'pop' album!,
By A Customer
I think a lot of AMC fans saw this album as the big 'sell-out' attempt at mainstream pop success. I wish that it had been successful, because it's a lost gem. Songs like 'Fearless', 'What Holds the World Together' and 'Cape Canaveral' display Eitzel's knack at writing heartbreaking tunes. But there are a couple of fine pop songs on this CD, namely 'Can You Help Me' and 'I Broke My Promise'. And the single 'Wish the World Away' was an angry howl, with a great video. Musically, the band have never sounded better. Bruce Kaphan's pedal steel is used especially well on 'Fearless'(surely one of the best opening tracks on any album ever).
Overall, I love this album. The only thing wrong with it is that it goes on a bit too long, and whenever I listen to 'Revolving Door', I'm reminded of Bryan Ferry, for some strange reason!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sprawling collection of songs,
After the dispiriting experience (for the band at least) of Mercury, American Music Club went another direction for 1994's San Francisco. Which is not to say it's a mainstream album. Indeed as an album of 15 tracks, many of which are quite disparate, it's nothing short of sprawling.
Fearless, the opening track, kicks off with Bruce Kaphan's steel guitar prominent in the mix before Mark Eitzel's moody vocals come in, singing "lost again..." in a lovelorn lament. It's a lovely sounding song, though for my money the lyrics on this are a little obvious. In fact the lyrics on this album in my opinion are a little disappointing when compared with previous albums.
It's Your Birthday appears to be a response to touring with Pearl Jam and the prevailing grunge sound of the time as it is a kind of self-consciously aggressive sounding song, while Can You Help Me? is a more pleasant sounding song. It sounds quite commercial, but it's actually a really good song, with a `proper' verse and chorus. It should have been a hit, but perhaps Eitzel and co weren't wearing the right plaid shirts and goatees.
Love Doesn't Belong to Anyone is another track featuring prominent steel guitar, and again it's quite pretty, with delicate picked guitar. It does not, however, feel important, in the same way that some of their previous work does. After the fairly ordinary Wish the World Away we get a kind of left turn with the classicly titled How Many Six Packs Does It Take To Screw in a Light, which is a sort of quirky kind of song. Cape Canaveral which follows is a lot more downbeat as the bands instruments coalesce into a magnificently gloomy murk.
After Hello Amsterdam which is the requisite AMC `clunker' on this album, the rest of the album features a great streak of really strong songs, musically in any case. The Revolving Door has a soaring melody and a great vocal performance from Mark Eitzel, The band sound quite polished on this one, whereas next track In The Shadow of the Valley is another slab of gloomy murk in the vein of Cape Canaveral.
What Holds The World Together is an acoustic led, almost torch song, slightly reminiscent of the Smiths but featuring a gloriously big chorus where Eitzek sings that "the world is held together by the wind that blows through Gena Rowlands' hair." Clearly. I Broke My Promise is another quite polished track which references muse Kathleen Burns. The Smiths are invoked again on sparse acoustic track The Thorn In My Side Is Gone, and I'll Be Gone is a pleasing slab of melodrama.
It's a curious collection which features some very strong songs, but not sure it `holds together' that well as an album.
5.0 out of 5 stars Raw emotions,
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Mark Eitzel's best album as part of American Music Club - though his word play can sound occasionally cloying - the passion behind the words move than overcomes this. Marvellous.
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars AMC's seventh album from 1994...,
San Francisco was the last American Music Club album...well, until the band announced they had reformed (with a minor personnel change) last year and a new album and tour are on the way. San Francisco isn't viewed particularly well- I've read some fans' perceptions that it's patchy and even poor; while the mail-order only AMC-compilation '1984-1995' selected by the band doesn't have anything from it- plumping for demos of songs like Sleeping Pills and LA is My Woman instead of anything from San Francisco. This I feel is slightly unfair to SF- which is a good, sometimes great album- though perhaps one that ought to be contrasted to Mark Eitzel's solo debut 60 Watt Silver Lining (1996- which featured some AMC-members) than an AMC-classic like Everclear or Mercury.
At 15-tracks (including a hidden instrumental reprise of Fearless at the end) perhaps SF is too long an album- something that was common in the 90s. There are several attempts at pop here, most of which are succesful, but were probably done to appease the commercial pressures on AMC as "the next big thing." How Many Six Packs...predicts the sound of Shelby Lynne's breakthrough album (This is...) a few years ago and the sound of Liz Phair's underrated Whitechocolatespaceegg (1999); while Love Doesn't Belong to Anyone attempts to balance Vudi's sonics with a Californian-percussive feel. Single Can You Help Me? has Eitzel's typically black comic lyrics, but a sound close to Crowded House (not necessarily a bad thing); the only poor pop-song attempt here is Hello Amsterdam. This sounds like a b-side- perhaps it's the references to Abba and Jonathan King?- one of the least AMC songs, though I suppose it was for fun...
The rest of the album is fine- opener Fearless showing a sound that has more in common with Daniel Lanois production of Bob Dylan (Oh Mercy) and Emmylou Harris (Wrecking Ball)- the vast guitar-sound making sense alongside those albums and the Tom Verlaine-produced Jeff Buckley album (Sweetheart My Drunk). It's Your Birthday and Wish the World Away (the latter giving the name to the fairly exploitative book on AMC of the same name) are slightly harder songs- though the former has a jazzy-sound that recalls late-period Talk Talk (while the latter is like AMC colliding with The Replacements & fits well with the Nevermind-generation!).
The latter half of the album, excepting Hello Amsterdam, is of more interest- Cape Canaveral and The Revolving Door are wonderful transcendent songs that are most definitely AMC. In the Shadow of the Valley remains one of my favourite AMC-songs, with its epic guitar assault and its take on a dark-California tying in with things like Keroauc's Big Sur and Denis Johnson's Already Dead. The end piano/pedal-guitar section is great, one of those songs to get lost in and worth buying the album for alone.
What Holds the World Together is another gorgeous acoustic-based ballad that nods to Gena Rowlands and cinema; while I Broke My Promise is another favourite- a gorgeous song to Eitzel's muse that is very knowing, "I Broke my promise that I wouldn't write another song about you..." It's a song of love and has some great pedal-steel from Bruce Kaphan and sits well against The Thorn in My Side is Gone which has an ambient-sample on (though I prefer the alternate take on the b-side of Can You Help Me). The final song is I'll Be Gone, which is like AMC's take on Wish-Cure or some New Order- or perhaps that's just me...
San Francisco is the worst AMC album, but still good, often great and well worth getting; though perhaps someone ought to reissue the deleted (in the UK) AMC-albums The Restless Stranger, Engine, California, United Kingdom and Everclear? Whichever way you cut it, with Hello Amsterdam programmed out, great stuff and ideal music for the wee small hours...
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