Mark Eitzel | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Mark Eitzel 


To those who followed San Francisco's late American Music Club, the stylistic turn taken by front man Mark Eitzel on his recent 60 Watt Silver Lining (Warner Brothers) should come as little surprise. While AMC crafted a slick guitar pop with stylistic variations--a bit of country here, some murky textural swirls there--Eitzel's singing always demonstrated the power of incongruity. Melodramatic crooning isn't an obvious match for collegiate pop, but both elements had always played off each other brilliantly. While Eitzel's continued to gain more control of his imperfect voice, he's long been a striking stylist--sublimely emotive and adept at turning phrases. He released a live solo recording several years ago, but 60 Watt Silver Lining finds him breaking with his past: with piano, upright bass, brushed drums, and light acoustic guitar framing his singing, the album stakes out blatantly adult-oriented pop ground. In his liner notes Eitzel calls "Saved" a "Burt Bacharach tribute" that he'd love Barbra Streisand to cover--which just about sums up the sound of the new album. He opens with a breezy take on the Gerry Goffin-Carole King tune "No Easy Way Down," and the ballad "When My Plane Goes Down" features the sound of a crackling fireplace. But Eitzel hasn't lost his dark sense of humor: "Cleopatra Jones" begins with the line "The people I was with said you were nothing but a fag hag and a dope fiend." By and large Eitzel has retained his morose, self-pitying tone. With AMC his Leonard Cohen/Nick Drake tendencies were met with upbeat guitar pop; now they're set to lounge pop. Eitzel is a remarkable performer, cracking sarcastic jokes one minute and exposing his total vulnerability the next. When he's lost in one of his songs it's hard to think of a more compelling singer. Joel R.L. Phelps opens. Friday, 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 489-3160. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jay Blakesberg.

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