American Music Club 

Love Songs for Patriots

I like Lambchop. Other people don't. My brother-in-law, for example. An otherwise lovely fellow, after just a few tracks off No, You C'mon he's ready to launch the disc out the driver's-side window and onto a north Georgia highway. So call Lambchop an acquired taste, just like Tom Waits, Bjork, and American Music Club.

It's been nearly a decade since AMC's last album, but even if you've never encountered the band's music -- and if you have, you were probably dragged to the table by a zealous convert with the fervor of a born-again Baptist -- you've probably at least heard of singer-songwriter and drunken poetic genius Mark Eitzel, well-known for a bounty of self-destructive stage acts in fine "What's he going to do next?" Bob Stinson tradition. On Love Songs for Patriots, Eitzel serves as ringmaster to an unbalanced circus of self-loathing. Unfortunately, that tent is a sizable canvas, at times as big as America itself.

Opening track "Ladies and Gentlemen," with swirling bass line and discordant piano, is a dizzying introduction to the album's centerpiece, "Patriot's Heart," a six-minute long, leaden analogy (White as the worm that crawls through the patriot's heart) set in a strip club, a setting-as-metaphor as inviting to insight as it is to daylight.

Love Songs otherwise leans on lengthy and sentimental odes including "Love Is" (think Lenny Kravitz ballad) and "Only Love Can Set You Free." Elsewhere, Eitzel finds artistic (if not quite spiritual) redemption -- not to mention a good chunk of his renowned sense of humor and toothsome truth -- in the idealized bookstore detailed in "Myopic Books": The music they play there/Would be Dinosaur Jr./And the people who worked there/would be super skinny/and super unfriendly/And that would make me happy. Make no mistake, Mark Eitzel has his moments, but they are, regrettably and finally, just that.

American Music Club plays the Café du Nord in SF Thursday, October 21, with the Court and Spark. 9 p.m., $13. 415-861-5016 or CafeduNord.com

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