Klamath – Mark Eitzel (2009)

Klamath CD jacket
Klamath CD jacket

Just when I thought Eitzel was winding down, Klamath came from seemingly out of the blue and surprised fans.

After all, AMC had just released the excellent The Golden Age a year before. It was finally looking like the band might finally break out into the mainstream. That’s the way it always looks, but like in the past, it never happened and Eitzel had an album’s worth of songs about his frustrations with being highly acclaimed, but selling from the cut out bin.

If Mark Eitzel had decided to call it quits after 9 releases with American Music Club (AMC) and over 11 under his own name, many would have understood. Although he was the darling of the critics, regular Joes for the most part had never heard of him, even though his music has remained consistent in its style and attention to detail.

So when Klamath was released in 2009 (sold initially from Eitzel’s website), it was almost under the radar. It would have been all too easy to miss one of his best solo albums, due to almost no promotion. Sadly Klamath would remain a kind of insider secrete as its US distribution window was small and now its likely to be available as an import for those who might seek it out.

For those who find it, the effort would have been worth while as Eitzel’s solo style comes full circle to the acoustic guitar centered music he started out with (and never strayed far from). Mostly gone were the obvious synths of The Invisible Man or the dance music experimentation of Candy Ass, but Klamath was no less atmospheric. Songs like “The Blood On My Hands” or “Like A River That Reaches The Sea” reach back to the Caught In a Trap…. and The Invisible Man eras with simple rhythms under atmospheric keyboard melodies.

Eitzel’s songs have the tendency to pack a punch lyrically, often funny, sad and angry – sometime all in the same song. Klamath takes all those emotions and reflects on a career that was or could have been. While critically important in that artistic way, it has been difficult otherwise with Eitzel turning to self releases between record label or distribution deals.

The terse “Ronald Koal Was a Rock Star” compares Eitzel’s life to that of a short-lived up and coming rock star in Columbus, Ohio who succumbed to the rock n roll life style. The outcome was not so good for Koal, but Eitzel seemed to be at peace with his cult status amongst those in the know, using humor to balance heartache.

In Eitzel’s, case the hard work and minimal monetary rewards are reflected in the hopelessness of heavy songs like”Why I’m Bullshit”, but something tells me Eitzel would not have had it any other way. There are brief moments of Eitzel’s sly wit and humor, but Klamath is a return to the emotional power of old AMC albums like Mercury from the early ’90s.

Klamath proved that Mark Eitzel was still one of the best song writers in rock, even if he was fated to be ignored by the  iTunes masses. The love of art is evident in Klamath from the heartbreaking attempts at getting the music to fans to the songs themselves, some of the best he’s written in his long career.

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