Mark Eitzel has such an imposing presence that after American Music Club
broke up in 1995, he seemed guaranteed a riveting solo career. But his solo records made it clear that a one-man Club is more like a pity party, and the rest of the band was the solid rudder that guided the clipper through the storm. Through seven albums (including their best, 1988's California
), the group shined light on the darkness of boozing and losing by salting languorous country and ethereal pop with punk and a touch of twang. Sure, Eitzel's nicotine moan was overwrought; most drunken wordsmiths are. But American Music Club captured a truth that poked the heart. They reformed last year, and the melancholic many rejoiced at the arrival of Love Songs for Patriots
, no great departure. But what did you expect, hip-hop beats? Get there early; they open for Merge Records labelmates Spoon.