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Goodbye To Love

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Artist: American Music Club
Track: Goodbye To Love
Album: If I Were a Carpenter

My earliest memory of listening to music is sitting in the back seat of the family station wagon on a Sunday afternoon drive, staring out the window while we listened to my mom’s tapes. My dad has always been more of a Johnny Cash/Kingston Trio kind of guy. Mom on the other hand has a sweet tooth for pop music. And since we’re talking about a late 70s/early 80s time frame, that means a lot of things like the Carpenters, Carol King, Neil Diamond, and similar artists, with a healthy dose of 60s Motown and similar r&b tracks.

To say that I love this kind of music is to understate the situation. I lived on this stuff in my youth (another early memory is of listening to some Linda Ronstadt song over and over and over again. My mom had it on vinyl and it was the first track on one of the sides. I’d just drop the needle in the groove, listen to the song, then pick the needle up and drop it back at the beginning. I really should see if my mom has any idea which album that was). This kind of music is hardwired into my being. When it comes on, I have an emotional response to it. Way to subconscious for words like ‘like’ or even ‘love’. I listen to this music and I’m over come with feelings of warmth, safety, and love. In other words, everything music should be. (seriously, if you can’t at least partially identify with what I’m talking about, or even worse, mock what I’ve just said, there’s just something missing from your life)

The above track is a cover of a Carpenters song, off a compilation of people covering Carpenters tracks. And honestly? AMC fracking owns this track. The original song is a sad tune that may make you sigh if you’re in the right mood. The AMC version has you reaching for the bottle with one hand and a box of razor blades with the other. Which really isn’t surprising when you think about it. A friend once described a Mark Eitzel (the band’s song writer and singer) solo show as the most depressing songs you’ve ever heard in your life, interspersed with some of the funniest stage banter you’ve ever heard. AMC isn’t a band you listen to when you want to feel happy. But, enough about the band, back to the track.

The first thing that hits when you listen to the track is Mark’s voice. And that continues through out the rest of the track. The music is what happens around Mark’s voice. It is his voice that pulls you along through the track. This makes it more difficult to escape the lyrics. Which are made even more depressing by the matter of fact tone in Mark’s voice when he sings lines like “no one ever cared if I should live or die/time and time again/the chance for love has passed me by/and the only thing I know of love/is how to live with out/just can’t seem to find it”

The AMC version of this song isn’t a play for pity, it is just a matter of fact statement of the truth. Even the closing lines of the song, (what lies in the future is a mystery to us all/no one can predict the wheel of fortune as it falls/there may come a time/when I see that I’ve been wrong/but for now this is my song) surely intended to lighten the mood a little and provide some hope to a dreary song, doesn’t carry enough conviction to instill a sense of hope in the listener.

While Mark’s voice plays center stage to the track, the music itself is nothing to shy away from either. With an arrangement that starts out sparse, focused mainly on the piano (and occasional organ flourishes) and drums, the song builds to a crescendo that provides a counter point to the vocals. The string section of the original is replaced by a peddle steel, providing the necessary accents with out ever having the tacked on feel that strings tend to get. And Vudi provides the guitar flourishes that have always been part of AMC’s unique sound. The whole of the arrangement has an organic feel which blends perfectly with the voice.

Of course, all of this talk about vocals and arrangements belies a simple core fact known by anyone who is at least remotely familiar with AMC’s back catalog. They can write a damn good song. Mark’s has received many accolades for his gift as a song writer, but it isn’t surprising that his best work is usually sited as the work he’s done with AMC. And the fact that the band is capable of writing such amazing original songs, allows them to fully inhabit this track. There is no novelty here. There is no ‘look at the post-punk [or whatever you would call AMC] band doing a cheesy 70s song.’ AMC recognized the core elements of the song that made it a great song, and then put their own spin on them. The finished product can stand up to most of the band’s original catalog, and that is a testament to just how well this band knows their craft.

Written by Matt

February 15th, 2007 at 9:39 pm

Posted in Downloads,pop