In part IV of our founder’s pieces about his musical heroes, André Archimbaud talks about the depth of dives one must take in listening to Mark Eitzel.

My junior year at Emerson College in Boston, I lived across the hall from 3 girls who were pretty big music fans. The one young lady directly across from my room shared a pass-through bathroom with 2 others & I would find myself in their rooms late into the night talking music.

One night, the one who lived in the single bedroom, Dawn, asked if I had heard of the band American Music Club. This would have been late spring 1993 & her boyfriend – a singer/songwriter in his own right – was excited about their new album as their last record, ‘Everclear,’ had done well at college radio & was received well critically. If nothing else, it was named Rolling Stone’s “Album of the Year” & Eitzel was called “Songwriter of the Year.”

I had heard of “AMC” (as hardcore fans would call them!) but, I hadn’t heard their music. I recall that she put ‘Everclear’ on her stereo as we all chatted.

It was the last time I ever listened to any Mark Eitzel’s music in the background.

Even with 4 people clamoring, I could hear the noises were unique & the lead singer had something definite to say with a sometimes-soaring, sometimes-husky voice.

When junior year ended a few weeks later, I decided to stay in Boston for the summer. I had missed that city so much when I was in Austin for the year – and didn’t have much interest in being with my folks that summer – so, I found a small studio apartment on Beacon Hill that suited me for the summer.

In the week just after classes ended & when I had to move, I spent hours at Emerson’s radio station, WERS-FM. I was an on-air host, so I had access to the new music that came in & the closet that contained it all. Around that time & in that unit, I discovered artists like David Gray’s debut, Jeff Buckley’s debut & American Music Club’s latest in an album “Mercury.”

In the summer of 1993, the labels – big & small – would send even college radio stations 10 or more copies of CDs to get their hosts to DJs on their respective stations. Funny enough, this was largely due to how college stations had driven the success of the exploding “grunge/alternative rock” movement. Nearly any band that college radio had surfaced had a shot at the major labels…and American Music Club & Mark Eitzel were on that list. Needless to say, I grabbed a copy of this new record!

‘Mercury’ was produced by Mitchell Froom, who at the time was riding the same sort of wave. Froom was known as an alt-rock guy who’d worked with Elvis Costello, Richard Thompson & The Del Fuegos & many more.

So, the sound Froom got out of this complex band with even more complex instrumentation & lyrics was exciting to me. I had never heard a rock band use a pedal steel before & I was enthralled. Don’t forget, I was raised in Texas after all. That summer, I basically had 3 CDs on repeat: AMC’s ‘Mercury,’ Quicksand’s ‘Slip’ & Tool’s ‘Undertow.’ The only one I could legitimately sing along with was ‘Mercury.’ In fact, I do a near perfect impression of Eitzel…

But, it was the depth of Eitzel’s songwriting & lyricism that absolutely electrified me. His ability to take a random object & not only humanize it, but make it soar…or behave entirely still. His treatment of Karen Carpenter in “Sick of Food” on ‘Everclear’ or Gena Rowlands in “What Holds The World Together” from ‘San Francisco’ is eulogistic & elegiac in respective order.

Eitzel also has an ability to explain & re-explain pain & emotionally fraught situations like no other I’ve ever known. With the release of ‘Hey Mr Ferryman’ in January 2017 – and in the weeks after Leonard Cohen’s passing – the comparisons between the two are nearly endless. Admittedly, I only know the tree-tops of Mr. Cohen’s work. I own a few of his records & a compilation, but I do know nearly everything Mark Eitzel has committed to tape.

In highlighting some of my favorite pieces of Eitzel’s writing below, I think you’ll see the Cohen correlation. I shall emphasize one segment from each of his albums that I own below with the titles listed above:

“Room Above The Club” from the ‘Restless Stranger’

Go ahead & help yourself if you think you can put me down
Just wanna see a king losin’ his crown
Just wanna see some justice in a dead & dyin’ town
Go ahead & help yourself, if you think you can force one more down.

“This Year” from Engine

This year everyone just stood around
And watched my family tree burn down
Watched it crumble on the ground
Making no protesting sound
As if justice was finally found

“Western Sky” from ‘California’

I hate to see you look that way
All the beauty has left your face
That’s such an easy thing to give away
That’s impossible to replace
So I’ll take you in my two weak hands
And I’ll throw you so high
Watch you fall forever in the western sky

“Here They Roll Down” from ‘United Kingdom’

Here they roll down
Like a miracle that’s over
Hey you slow down
Like the miracle was over

If your broken face can find a lover
Give away your chance to fly
Give away your will power

“The Dead Part of You” from ‘Everclear’

The price of your soul is worth less than the cab fare
That gets you home before the living end.
The dead part of you leaves me with a blessing
From a destruction of your beauty, your self-hatred, your self-pity.

“Gratitude Walks” from ‘Mercury’

Why don’t you be good for something
And draw down the shade
On a sun that sat up all night shivering
On a sun that sat up all night afraid

“What Holds The World Together” from ‘San Francisco’

The wind pulls me around
And everything it touches turns weak
An antique or an eyelash stuck in your cheek
The paper thin skin of a crowd chasing you
Down a lost and dead-end trail
With a guilt no alibi can curtail
The world is held together by the wind
That blows through Gena Rowland’s hair

“Ladies & Gentlemen” from ‘Love Songs For Patriots’

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time
For all the good that’s in you to shine
For all the lights to lose their shade
For all the hate that’s in you to fade

“Aspirin” from ’60 Watt Silver Lining’

Is the pain they caused you
Your final destination
It’s just going to make you
Hate your own reflection
You try and endure it
But you know you gotta give in tell me
Why such a cheap thing
Always hides the real thing

“Fresh Screwdriver” from ‘West’

On the freeway
The traffic fixed in front of me
Like a still-life
I don’t want to survive

“Xmas Lights Spin” from “Caught in a Trap and I Can’t Back Out ‘Cause I Love You Too Much, Baby”

A ceiling full of inflatable worlds
And Xmas lights that spin all year round
The question is always bigger than the answer
It takes a nurse to ease you into your surrender
As she smiles ’cause she knows you won’t remember
Things you should only be telling your mother
As she counts you down, your drowned soul
Tired and hard, defeated and getting mean
And what’s worse, the humiliations of a good time
Or slipping into the routine
Or for you is it
All the same thing

“Sleep” from ‘The Invisible Man’

Now, I love all the 7 deadly sins
I like to watch ‘em smile on the celebrity smile show
You know that’s the show where everybody wins
A fabulous tour of the hell they already know

“We All Have to Find Our Own Way Out” from ‘Don’t Be A Stranger’

You talk of suicide
Well hurray
And yeah, that used to be me
But now what do I say
Everyone needs a hand
To help them down
You know what, I’ll hold your hand
But I won’t drown
We all have to find
Our own way out

“An Answer” from ‘Hey Mr Ferryman’

Come on dance with me right now
Right here in your merciful kitchen
Let all the sorrow disappear
While our feet go missing

Under your soft Christmas lights
No one could ever reap what they sow
My dance moves are said to be a delight
As long as we keep it slow

You’re always on my mind
I can’t leave you behind
Make me want to stick around and find
If there’s an answer

Don’t know how I got so broken
If you wanna leave what can I say
Sing a hymn for things left unspoken
A song called “Dance the Night Away”

You’re always on my mind
I can’t leave you behind
You make me want to stay and find
If there’s an answer

And all the love that I’ve known
All the love that I’ve been shown
Picks me up and drags me home
Tries and tries and tries and tries to tell me

I’m not alone
I’m not alone

And you’re always on my mind
I can’t leave you behind
Make me wanna stick around and find
If there’s an answer