Let's all get depresso-burger despair-0-mania for a moment. There's nothing
like kicking back with a bottle of cheap booze, a couple tapes of Billie
Holiday recorded during her agonizing, scratchy-throated last years, and
spending a night in gloom. You could have a couple friends over -- its even
better if you haven't been getting along well with them lately -- but being
alone in a roadside hotel would do well enough. For added spice, make sure
a couple is having noisy sex in the next room. Or the same couple, arguing
loudly. Bonus points if they throw things while they're arguing or having
The Billie Holiday tapes get chewed up by your crappy cassette player. What
do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?
The best perpetuation of that elegant feeling of poetic misery tampered
with the transience of human existence could be found in the songs of Mark
Eitzel. His work with the American Music Club is legendary,
at least to the
couple hundred people who'd heard of 'em. Eitzel has a grasp of true poetry
and songwriting appropriate to the lyrics, or problems, at hand.
This set of songs are wrapped around the lives of the down and out in San
Francisco, utterly personal and seemingly universal. Lives as skewed as the
fishing boat rocking on the flat sea shown on the cover. Mark's singing is
always a low tenor, shifting from curiously detached to passionate without
seeming to change at all. The music backing him would be acceptable on any
of those tasteful yuppie rock PBS radio shows running on weekend
afternoons, wedged between Tracy Chapman and Lyle Lovett. Fortunately, this
is a bit better than most, and bathed in emotions more sincere.
There's a couple clinkers here, but they're just a couple minutes long
each, and Mark's worst work could qualify as A-sides on nearly any other
singer's demo tape anyway.
I wish I could feel as well-disposed toward the Olympic Death Squad CD. ODS
is Mark Robinson, formerly of the late and lamented Unrest,
and Washington DC area indy label mogul. Unrest has almost
always failed to suck,
producing oblique pop music of the sort that the punkish kids like to
doddle to when they wanna cool off. But Unrest broke up, and Mark's on his
own, and put out this set of multitracked solo tunes with the name Olympic
It's weak, unfortunately. If a college friend did this and loaned you a
tape, you might be impressed, particularly if you only remember him for
playing Lynrd Skynrd songs in the dorm stairwell on Sunday nights back in
college. But it's a letdown, given its pedigree.
The opening track doesn't help things. Mark flatly recites 'Hear me, hear
me, take me, please me...' over a reptitious rhythm track, sounding like
Depeche Mode, not sufficiently unplugged. A couple tunes in, and the music
lightens up a bit ("Show Your Age" and "Sometime I Can Breathe" are nice).
It sounds like Mark had fun, at least. However, everything's thin and
underdeveloped. Maybe that was the point, but it got blunted somehow.