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Rhythm & Views

American Music Club

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"Nobody here will ever save you," sings alt-crooner Mark Eitzel in "Decibels and the Little Pills," a devastating character sketch of a girl gone wild. "Your rebel cowboy hat," he continues, "all it says is you're tonight's casualty."

Eitzel, whether as a solo artist or fronting his pioneering slow-core band American Music Club, has dutifully and morbidly entertained anyone willing to belly up to the bar and hear exquisite tales of despair, heartbreak and longing. The Golden Age offers more of the same fatalistic and beautiful songwriting that has made Eitzel the Gen X answer to Leonard Cohen.

This time around, AMC has lost a few members and gained some new ones, like bassist Sean Hoffman and drummer Steve Didelot. Of course, Eitzel and guitarist Vudi keep the classic AMC sound (think punk-tinged torch songs) intact, with Hoffman and Didelot's harmonies adding more California pop to the proceedings.

The most upbeat, attractive track here is the dark, Smiths-like guitar confection "Who You Are," with acerbic Hallmark lyrics that Morrissey could've penned: "I know everyone's trying to sell / you the illusion / that keeps them in hell." The most daring in terms of approach is probably "All the Lost Souls Welcome You to San Francisco," where "everyone's humming 'A Love Supreme' / and watching it pour softly down the hill."

Indeed, you can discern Eitzel pouring his heart into every track, a generous and accomplished bartender of song.

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