- The Invisible Man - ole-505 - 2001-05-22
The Invisible Man
‘The Invisible Man’ is a wildly adventurous musical departure for Mark Eitzel, and, we think, the finest album of his career.
After seven albums fronting American Music Club (1985-1994), garnering endless “Album of the Year” and “Songwriter of the Year” accolades from magazines such as Rolling Stone and Spin, Eitzel went on to a critically successful solo career. On the three solo albums, he was joined by various collaborators such as Bruce Kaphan and Danny Pearson of AMC, James McNew from Yo La Tengo, Steve Shelley from Sonic Youth, Mike McCready from Pearl Jam, and Peter Buck from REM. The big story on ‘The Invisible Man,’ however, is that Mark has chosen to go it alone; doing most of the producing, recording and arranging, and playing most of the instruments himself, yet creating a sound that takes over the room like nothing else this year.
A listen to just the first song (“The Boy With The Hammer In The Paper Bag”) might lead one to think that Eitzel has made an electronic album with seething lyrics, while the last song (the single “Proclaim Your Joy”) is a hilarious and uplifting rock song, that would give a completely different impression if heard by itself. In between, Eitzel covers a wide landscape. ‘The Invisible Man’ is an extraordinarily dramatic and emotional album, one that has both dark moments and uncharacteristically optimistic ones. Humour and gravity, proclamations of despair and joy — with a few curveballs. What is particularly notable throughout is that there are more choruses and genuinely catchy hooks per square inch than any other Eitzel album.
For the uninitiated, Mark Eitzel is a songwriter and musician admired by a diverse array of artists, from Joni Mitchell to Tricky, Polly Harvey to Elton John, Elvis Costello to Stephin Merritt, Sheryl Crow to Ryan Adams, to name just a few. An Eitzel tribute album, Come On Beautiful, was released in October 2000, with tracks by Calexico, Lambchop and others. Live renditions of Eitzel songs have also been performed by bands including The Divine Comedy, Everything But The Girl and The Indigo Girls.
The year 2000 also saw the release of Wish The World Away, a critical biography of Eitzel and American Music Club by Sean Body (SAF Publishing, UK), and Warner Brothers reissued the first two American Music Club albums (Engine and Restless Stranger), with bonus tracks.
From Mark: I worked on ‘The Invisible Man’ for over two years, writing over 40 songs, and recording with a bunch of different people, but mostly by myself. I wrote all of the songs on an acoustic guitar, but finished most with a sampler and Pro-tools on a Mac G-4 computer (affectionately nicknamed “The Dumb Ass”) in the front room of my house in San Francisco. Most of the time I had on headphones and the neighbors never complained. I have since put together a really terrific 4-piece band to play this music live. We rehearse in the living room, and the neighbors only complain occasionally.
‘The Invisible Man’ is dedicated to all the friends I’ve lost while making this record.
1) “The Boy With The Hammer In A Paper Bag” — It takes place in an illegal underground club in San Francisco, populated by artists, hipsters, strippers, pornographers, and other well-dressed individuals. The subject of this song had a particularly good look.
2) “Can You See” — Halloween in San Francisco, riding around on my bicycle from street party to street party, and then talking all night to a friend in a costume. If the arrangement brings to mind the Carpenters in a twisted sort of way, I’ll take that as a compliment.
3) “Christian Science Reading Room” — New York City, Winter 1999. It’s a true story. All of my songs are true stories, actually.
4) “Sleep” — It’s a song about writing a song—about wishing I was in AC/DC circa early ’70s. I’m hoping this song will land me a lucrative job as a jingle writer for Tylenol PM.
5) “To The Sea” — About a singer/songwriter and the story I heard of his untimely death, and how most people reject his kind of purity
6) “Shine” — This comes from the same Halloween and how I never seem to be able to dress up in costume, because I feel like an idiot—I feel fake enough in my own skin.
7) “Steve I Always Knew” — A true story about somebody in 1985 who told me that I was the worst poet he ever met. I was immediately taken with him. And it’s about good drugs and bad sex.
8) “Bitterness” — About an aging over-the-hill pop welterweight who bears no resemblance to myself. Inspired by a PBS television show about James Baldwin. 9) “Anything” — Perhaps these comments aren’t such a great idea, after all— Maybe you should project your own imagination onto this song, and I’ll just shut up.
10) “Without You” — An over-the-top exploration of pretension and loss, featuring a visceral and rather embarrassing vocal performance in tribute to the disappearance of the grey whale.
11) “The Global Sweep Of Human History” — Whilst not being great art, it is about the things that inspire great art, which are murder and betrayal.
12) “Seeing Eye Dog” — Written as a memo to a friend who I wish had lived long enough for it to be true.
13) “Proclaim Your Joy” — Written in 5 minutes, featuring 3 chords played over and over again.
04/26/02 — During an early 2002 respite from Matador-related activity, Mark Eitzel has a new album about to land in your lap. The first, ‘Music for Courage and Confidence’ is a collection of covers recorded in 1998. Produced by Brian Paulson (Man Sized Action, Son Volt, Superchunk) and Johan Kugelberg (Spain, Ugly Things associate editor, one-time Matador insider) and featuring such all-star players as Ethan Johns (H-Bombs, various Ryan Adams productions), Joey Waronker (Beck, that dog) and Bjorn Olsson, ’Music for Courage’ features Eitzel interpretations of songs near and dear to your heart; from Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” to Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” to Phil Ochs’ “Rehearsals for Retirement,” this range of material is bigger than the Grand Canyon. The album comes out in the U.S. on April 23 via the New West Label.
09/07/01 — Mark Eitzel, The greatest songwriter Living or Dead Announces a CMJ Appearance
He sounds better alive, and if you don’t trust me, hop in the time machine and fast forward 50 years (possibly less if Mark doesn’t get several servings of fruit and vegetables every day) and find out for yourself. Mark will be playing the Village Underground on September 13.
06/12/01 — The songwriter Paris Match called "the most important American voice since Robeson" is in the homestretch of a massive European tour. Mark’s first US trip in support of ‘The Invisible Man’ starts on June 21, with a warm up show at San Francisco’s Amoeba Records on Tuesday the 19th. The performance is free, but if you’d like to give Mark some money, he accepts most currencies. Watch some footage from Mark’s recent Housing Works benefit performance in New York.
05/24/01 — Live Video & Video Interview
Footage from the Housing Works acoustic set is now available. All eight songs (seven from ‘The Invisible Man’) are posted in Real Video 8. We’ve also got a video interview with Mark from the day before.
04/10/01 — Mark Eitzel — upcoming free NY solo performance
While in town doing promo stuff for the May release of ‘The Invisible Man,’ Mark Eitzel will also be doing a special acoustic performance at 7pm, Monday April 16 at the Housing Works Used Book Cafe. (126 Crosby Street in NYC, Btwn Houston and Prince, 1 block east of Broadway)
Housing Works is a non-profit organization that provides housing, health care, job training, advocacy, and many other services for homeless New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS. All proceeds from book and food sales at the Cafe benefit Housing Works. The gig itself is free, but if you’d like to make a donation or purchase something, that would be great.
03/07/01 — Mark Eitzel — We can see right through him
The amazing new album from Mark Eitzel is officially titled ‘The Invisible Man.’ Look for a European single of “Proclaim Your Joy” preceding the full-length masterpiece, and please be advised that Mark will be playing with Stephen Malkmus, Mogwai and The Soft Boys at Matador’s SXSW event, affectionately dubbed “We Put The Brie In Inebriate,” at the Austin Music Hall on March 17.
02/06/01 — Mark Eitzel returns to public prominence (!!)
Titles, dates and revealing photography will have to wait for a future update, but we can announce with undisguised glee that Mark Eitzel will be releasing a brand new studio recording on Matador in the spring of 2001. We can also confirm after weeks of denials, Mr. Eitzel will be appearing on Matador’s massive SXSW live event, taking place on March 17 (Austin Music Hall), appearing alongside Stephen Malkmus, Mogwai and the reunited Soft Boys. He’ll also be playing in London on March 1 alongside The Wisdom Of Harry at London’s Union Chapel, as part of Rough Trade’s 25th Anniversary concert series.