|As both a solo artist and the frontman for enduring cult favorites American Music Club, Mark Eitzel established himself among the truly powerful forces in contemporary music; a hauntingly evocative singer, he earned even greater notoriety for his brilliance as a composer, combining the energy of punk, the pastoral beauty of folk, and the melodrama of lounge music to build one of the most impressive and darkly poetic bodies of songs in the modern pop canon. Born January 30, 1959 in Walnut Creek, CA, Eitzel's military upbringing led him everywhere from Great Britain to Columbus, OH; as a teen, he became a born-again Christian, but at the age of 16, he rejected religion in favor of alcohol, his love/hate relationship with the bottle going on to fuel much of his subsquent work as a performer.
Inspired by punk, he eventually formed his own group, The Naked Skinnies, and with them relocated to San Francisco in 1980; there the band quickly dissolved, and three years later he formed American Music Club. AMC's 12-year existence was tumultuous, to say the least; Eitzel, prone to facing his demons while onstage, earned a notorious reputation as a loose cannon, and despite the lavish critical praise heaped on albums like 1991's Everclear and 1993's Mercury, the group never rose beyond a fierce cult following. Eitzel quit the band on numerous occasions, once joining another Bay Area group, The Toiling Midgets; in 1991, while still fronting American Music Club, he issued his solo debut, Songs of Love, a live acoustic set recorded in London (British audiences being much more receptive to his music than their American counterparts).
A subsequent solo single on Matador, the lovely "Take Courage," increased rumors of the band's impending breakup, but they did not truly implode until after the release of 1994's San Francisco. At that point, Eitzel began pursuing his solo career in earnest, debuting in 1996 with the jazzy 60 Watt Silver Lining. Eitzel's subsequent solo career soon found him following a wildly eclectic path. In 1997, Eitzel teamed up with R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, and in a matter of days they wrote and recorded West, which matched Eitzel's verse with Buck's intelligent and engaging pop melodies.
His next album, 1998's Caught In A Trap And I Can't Back Out 'Cause I Love You Too Much, Baby, was an unusually stark and downbeat affair, recorded in part with the assistance of Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth and James McNew from Yo La Tengo. Eitzel next embraced both pop and electronics with 2001's The Invisible Man, and in 2002 he recorded two albums of covers - a tribute to the work of other songwriters on Music for Courage and Confidence, and a look back at his own songs for American Music Club as performed with a group of Greek folk musicians on The Ugly American. ~ Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide