American Music Club are not a happy bunch. Their impressive efforts over a twenty six year career were recently dubbed as some of the pioneering works that led to Emo, and unsurprisingly the serious music-makers are none too keen on being associated with excessive eyeliner, Myspace pouts and ridiculously long fringes.
The Golden Age is their direct response to this claim, the ninth offering infinitely lighter in tone to their previous works and heralding a new age for the troubled, originally San Francisco-based cult outfit who split for 10 years only to resurface in 2004 with Love Songs For Patriots, and most recently re-located to Los Angeles, shedding two members in the process. The legendary Mark Eitzel of course remains on singer/songwriter duties, as does Vudi on guitar, but they are now joined by ex-skate punk and producer Sean Hoffman on bass and surfer/Maths teacher Steve Didelot on drums, both of Echo Park act The Larks.
Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Grandaddy producer Dave Trumfio works his magic in the studio this time around, and while he may have helped to make AMC’s sound more soothing; this beautiful collection of tracks boasting golden vocals, shimmering acoustic guitars, soaring harmonies, woozy solos and sweeping strings, the storytelling is as dark as ever. “No one here, is gonna save you”, Eitzel croons on undeniable album highlight The Decibels And The Little Pills and the woozy, slide-guitar driven Windows On The World is a poetic and lilting nod to 9/11 without a hint of painful over-sentimentality or slush.
The self-described “gay communist” then goes on to paint even more pictures of discontent, the lyrical blows cushioned throughout by some seriously lovely melodies, such as Who You Are’s melancholy refrain – “I’m stuck in my confusion but I know that you’ll go far, you’re chased by the horizon because you know who you are” – and during lilting horn-tinged waltz I Know That’s Not Really You and bittersweet closer The Grand Duchess Of San Francisco.
Brooding and compelling then, yet never straying into the self-indulgent whining that has come to be associated with the genre they supposedly spawned, The Golden Age is a bewitching and thoroughly addictive record that proves that even when they push themselves out of their comfort zone, American Music Club can still come up with a classic. Eitzel is often named America’s greatest living lyricist and this record demonstrates skilfully why. Long may his reputation remain unsullied.