Mark Eitzel

60 Watt Silver Lining

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When Eitzel disbanded American Music Club, he also made a break with anything to do with alterna-rock. 60 Watt has a clean-sounding, torch-to-jazz sort of ambiance, more VH1 adult rock than MTV. Because of 60 Watt's glossy textures -- odd from someone who disowned AMC's masterful San Francisco for being "too commercial" -- it's hard to get into this at first. But when the initial disappointment dissipates, one encounters an LP almost as formidable and somber as any of AMC's works from United Kingdom on. Sadly, Eitzel has abandoned the startling, desperate bellow that scared the bejesus out of listeners on the likes of "Kathleen" or "Ex-Girlfriend," but he's just as terse in sneering "you're worried if you remembered to use bleach to clean your needle/well so what" ("Mission Rock Resort"), or just as quietly despairing when repeating "I'm always alone" ("Sacred Heart") as on any of his previous, more desolate excursions through his trampled heart. On the lesser material, his coffee-tempered voice, evocative words, and brooding textures still jolt. On the stronger songs, such as the jaunty "Southend on Sea" and "Cleopatra Jones," the lithe "Sacred Heart" and "Always Turn Away," and the disquieting "Everything is Beautiful," his lyrical prowess softly decimates. This is best heard on the song he wants Barbra Streisand to record, the surprisingly warm "Saved," a truly moving knee-knocker that Eitzel croons as if he's about to burst into tears from loss of control as much as any sense of joy or relief. An extraordinary LP, but one that might be avoided by all but the already committed. And that would be a shame; Eitzel is as much an American original, a bag of immense and underappreciated riches, an antidote to the sterility and stupidity of modern rock.

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