Mark Eitzel seems to have had no problems writing songs since the breakup of American Music Club, but finding a musical setting for them that suits him as well as AMC's brooding folk-punk has proven to be a daunting task. After the neo-jazz of 60 Watt Silver Lining, the warm R.E.M.-ish pop of West, and the stark postmodern folk of Caught in a Trap..., Eitzel takes yet another left turn with The Invisible Man, his first album after a three-year layoff. This time out, Eitzel has built his arrangements around spare keyboard lines, atmospheric electronic samples, and percussion loops that blend with his voice and acoustic guitar to create an effect that suggest a more spare, organic version of Portishead, or a Jon Brion production that's stuck in a blue funk. But the new surroundings suit the songs quite well, and surprisingly enough, by Eitzel's standards The Invisible Man doesn't sound especially doomstruck. Anyone looking for his usual failed-romantic gloom will find plenty of it on songs like "Sleep," "Bitterness," and "Steve I Always Knew," the latter in a take markedly superior to that on the limited-edition Lover's Leap USA. But there's also a haunting wistfulness to the lovelorn "Anything" and "Without You,"; "Can You See" and "Seeing Eye Dog" are love songs that at least acknowledge the possibility of a functional relationship with wit and compassion; and the surreal humor of "Christian Science Reading Room" is a welcome reminder of how funny Eitzel can be when he feels like it. And the final track, "Proclaim Your Joy," is shocking in its good cheer -- it's a goofy Lou Reed-esque talking blues that winds into a rollicking singalong chorus that's the most life-affirming message Eitzel has offered to date. As a writer, Eitzel hasn't sounded this warm and approachable since American Music Club's California, and musically, this his most satisfying work since going solo; on all levels, The Invisible Man is an experiment that succeeds.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming