American Music Club

1984-1995

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When American Music Club set out on a reunion tour in early 2004, they had no new material ready for release, so they brought along a new piece of product in the form of 1984-1995, intended as a limited-edition compilation of rare and unreleased AMC material. However, given that much of their most important material is currently out of print -- most notably 1991's Everclear, arguably the group's finest hour -- 1984-1995 plays more like the "Greatest Hits" album this group was never commercially successful enough to earn. While there are more than a few rare gems on board -- powerful lo-fi demos for "I Always Knew" and "Sleeping Pills," a striking live take of "Away Down My Street," and "I'm in Heaven Now" from the long out-of-print Human Music compilation -- there are also plenty of cuts which should be quite familiar to anyone who followed AMC's career. But that's not to say that they aren't welcome in this context, or that they make this collection any less compelling. While Mark Eitzel's songs were always American Music Club's greatest treasure, 1984-1995 dramatically illustrates just how great a band AMC were, as they swing from the fragile textures of "Kathleen" and "Western Sky" to the noisy thunder of "Challenger," and create a superb backdrop for the various wounded hearts to be found in these songs, frequently with greater finesse than Eitzel and his collaborators have managed on his quite worthy post-AMC solo efforts. (And "Memo From Bernal Heights," written by guitarist Vudi, reveals that this group had more than one worthwhile songwriter on board.) 1984-1995 is available only at the band's live shows and through their website, which means that few outside the group's devoted fan base are likely to hear it, but while it's a lovely testament to the emotional power of this group's repertoire, it's also as fine an introduction to AMC's music as one could hope for, and with Everclear, California, and United Kingdom currently unavailable, it's also the most accessible place to sample a number of remarkable songs from one of the finest and most distinctive bands of their time. For beginners or devotees, this is essential listening.

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