A Mark Eitzel gig can be the equivalent of a slow-motion car crash, painful to watch but impossible to look away. One performance I saw deteriorated into a heated war of words between the mightily pissed-off troubadour and some drunken hecklers. I wanted to walk out but couldn’t, convinced Eitzel would miraculously turn things around and deliver a blistering set. He didn’t and I left too late to catch the last train home.
But you can forgive someone an awful lot when their sweet sad songs are little lifebuoys for the heartbroken and sung in a voice like melted Hersheys. The Invisible Man is a real return to form, evoking the ghost of his former band of arch-miserablists, the American Music Club. However, the album does require repeated listening before the songs, which at first may seem somewhat directionless, reveal their subtle riches.
Eitzel uses loops and samples reminiscent of David Gray’s White Ladder, and his smoky timbre is given new life on paeans of lost love and hope such as the brooding “Steve, I Always Knew” or the soaring, wounded “Without You”. You can almost picture the video, Eitzel walking desolate down some oddly depopulated, neon-soaked strip; the original urban loner.
The dreamily downbeat atmosphere is rudely shattered by “Proclaim Your Joy”, a throwaway acoustic romp that Eitzel claims he wrote “in five seconds as a kind of joke but then I thought: Ha Ha.” Like I said, you can forgive Eitzel an awful lot. He still owes me £15 cab-fare though.