The Recommendation Quote from Franz Nicolay: â€œAmerican Music Club is the band that most shaped my idea of the kind of record I wanted to make. In addition to what has said about them many times, I think they’re an interesting object in lesson in the elusive chemistry of particular individuals. Despite the overwhelming (legitimate) focus on singer and primary songwriter Mark Eitzel, listening to his solo records and then listening to an AMC album can be like going from black and white to Technicolor. Plenty has been said about Eitzel as a songwriter and performer – I taught myself to play guitar and sing, in part, to his songs, particularly the acoustic record “Songs Of Love Live” – but not nearly enough about the unique skills of the rest of the band: Danny Pearson’s high-lonesome vocal harmonies; particular way with a pedal-tone bass part that still manages to feel like a moving line; non-root-note lines, and habit of leaving out the downbeat, making an already-skeletal arrangement feel spookily abandoned (“What Godzilla Said To God…”, “Dallas, Airports, Bodybags”) Drummer Tim Mooney’s ride-and-brushes jazz touch and way of laying behind even the drowsiest waltz time (and AMC’s best songs are almost always in three). Bruce Kaphan’s closed-fist piano clusters and spread-voiced dissonances (which mirror Eitzel’s own unusual guitar voicings) and lushly melodic pedal steel, which give the band an widescreen texture even without the string sections of “Johnny Mathis’ Feet” and cathedral reverb of “Everclear.” And sui-generis guitar savant Vudi, switching on a moment’s notice from clean country licks to cloudy, exploding amp noise and spiralling feedback (he toured as a member of the Swans after AMC’s breakup).â€
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New to American Music Club? Start here: Mercury was their first major-label record, was the first I heard, and is the one I return to. Some people will tell you that it was the “wrong time to make their arty record,” and that if they’d made a record that sounded just like California or Everclear that they’d’ve been a huge success. I find it hard to believe that anyone expected them to sell half a million records to begin with, and that in their misplaced expectations those people miss the fact that the band made the album of their lives: intimate, claustrophobic, anthemic, foggy, warm and heartsick.
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More about our guest author, Franz Nicolay: Editor’s note: Franz Nicolay, the former multi-instrumentalist for The Hold Steady is now a solo act with one solo record behind him and a very busy 2010 ahead. First up is the release of his book of short stories, Complicated Gardening Techniques (pre-order here). Next is the release of Fight Dirty, an album that is a collaboration between Nicolay’s gypsy-punk unit, Guignol and Mischief Brew. Order that cassette (yes, I said cassette) / digital download here. And, oh yeah, Franz is on tour and is coming to a town near you. Check the tour dates.