Apple Pie and Bullet Proof

How to approach this? So ingrained are the things journalists used to write ten, twelve years ago, which I blindly believed - well, not blindly, ’cause they were right, their writing lifted by the obvious brilliance of American Music Club’s many absolute classic masterpiece records. But Jesus, how common was that? To have such love and such despair, such towering conviction in... something. And in something’s impossibility.

They weren’t adolescent records, that’s for certain. That’s just the time of my life when I happened to hear them. Fucked me up far more than my Mum and Dad or The Smiths ever could. But I still listen to them, still love them, which makes some kind of sense, if…

The only review of the new record I even half skimmed started with something about Eitzel being a ‘self-destructive individual’. Smug prick, whoever wrote that. But probably right: it was always the lows from which he managed to wring the most heart stopping moments. Is that self destructive? Perhaps it’s just honest, or ambitious

Nothing ever seems to make you happy
Are you miserable babe or are you just plain mean

An mp3 from the official website a few weeks ago, of ‘Another Morning’: a teaser. Jesus God.

Someone does you wrong you spend your whole life trying to prove it
You wear your pain with pride you refuse to remove it

Echoing a line from 1994’s ‘I Broke My Promise’ ... ‘that I wouldn’t write another song about you / I guess I lied - after twelve years I still love you’. Plus ten... ‘Why would I stop loving you a hundred years from now / It’s only time’ suddenly and irrevocably shamed. Then follows a flood of love such as can rarely have been captured on these silly little CD things and just one of the most tender aching joyful anguished things I’ve ever heard in my life, ushered in:

There must have been a short five minutes somewhere in your youth
When you laughed like water breaking over the broken land

For weeks this has been harpooning my brain and melting my heart, and Mark why are you doing this? You don’t have to, you’ve nothing left to prove. We fuckin’ love you.

When you laughed like the starting gun at the start of a race
I want to smash the violins and the symphony
I want to see a smile with a real simple melody
It’s when you wake up and you’re glad that you’re breathing
It’s when you wake up and you’re glad that you’re living
Well that’s another morning
Another morning with Kathleen

I used not to be able to choose between ‘Northern Sky’ and ‘Western Sky’, but this is something else. This is something hat feels precious and personal that I want everyone in the world to hear, that I’d get defensive about if anyone else even mentioned (AMC have this effect, I think: a mailing list post announcing a tour which is coming NOWHERE NEAR SCOTLAND, had a defensive tone: please make the effort, show them you love them). It’s... oh, leave me alone. Go and buy the record. The rest of this review was written beforehand.

To have a new album feels strange. After three or four listens it’s clear that this is no solo-album-with-ex-band-members. It bears little relation to Eitzel’s solo output, which forms a fine set of albums but that but lacks something in urgency and consistency compared to, well, let’s give him his due: the most astonishing run of plunging-the-depths unrequited love songs in music. Alongside Daniel Johnston’s, of course. Who’s going to be able to live up to that? Who would want to, given the trauma it obviously causes? Love Songs for Patriots wants to. And doesn’t want to. And is all conquering in its struggle. It’s an American Music Club album. That’s me fucked for another ten years. That’s me alive again.

Ah, hyperbole. I can’t possibly know how good this record is in such a short space of time, though I’ve a hunch it’s Up There. AMC are a slow burn band, which is why it was always ridiculous to expect them to sell a lot of records. They must know this: why else did they bury Mercury (the one that could have been big, if it had been halfway accessible) in such murk that it takes hundreds of listens to uncover its beauty? Love Songs for Patriots doesn’t sound like Mercury; it sounds like a Everclear in Technicolor. It feels uncharacteristically big, of theme, of song-length. Angry rather than world weary. Redemptive in parts. Older, wiser, sager. ‘Maybe the worst is over’. Not sadder. It swaggers, which is new. But, first impressions. It’s going to keep plenty of people warm into the long winter evenings.

© 2004 Chris Fox