The news is that Mark Eitzel and Vudi have resurrected American Music Club for the first time since 2004's Love Songs for Patriots (which was in turn the group's first album in a decade), but they haven't gone terribly far out of their way to do it -- while pedal steel player Bruce Kaplan was absent from the Love Songs lineup, on 2008's The Golden Age, Eitzel and Vudi are the only holdovers from the band's original membership, with debuting bassist Sean Hoffman and percussionist Steve Didelot completing this new, leaner edition of AMC. While Love Songs attempted to evoke the grand, noisy soundscapes of albums like Everclear and Mercury, The Golden Age harks back to the more arid atmospherics of California and United Kingdom, and it does so quite well. Anyone hoping for a big dose of Vudi's fractured guitar heroics will go wanting as he aims for a more subdued tone on most tracks, saving his more outré effects for the codas of "On My Way" and "The Windows on the World." But this is easily the best set of songs Eitzel has offered since his 2001 solo effort, The Invisible Man, and his vocals are in superb form; while much of his work since AMC's breakup seemed to find him looking for a new direction, these 13 songs are just the sort of thing he does best, compelling tales of lost souls and busted hearts that reveal as much compassion as despair, and he delivers them with a weary but heartfelt authority that few others could match. And if this album doesn't break much new ground or challenge anyone's expectations of American Music Club, it also offers a clear and honest reminder of why this band made so much vital, lasting music during its original lifetime; The Golden Age may simply be the Eitzel and Vudi show, but that's more than enough to make this a rich and rewarding set of songs whose gentle surfaces belie their troubling strength.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming