Beer and Pavement

The Matador 100 Project: Mark Eitzel & Circle X (Olé 016-017)

Posted in Challenge, Matador 100, Records, Review by SM on July 25, 2017

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Mark Eitzel is a legend few know. You may have heard of American Music Club and it’s doubtful you knew about Toiling Midgets. Still, Eitzel’s been around even if most are unaware. He’s the kind of poetic genius who won’t be remembered until he gets Nick Drake-like attention with a Volkswagen ad and smartly-released greatest hits comp sometime in the future.

That said, Mark Eitzel released an often ignored single on Matador called Take Courage. It’s so misplaced that Wikipedia thinks it’s a big Christian radio hit, not a key part of Eitzel’s discography. But I know it exists as I own a copy and am glad I do.

The first side features “On the Emblematic Use of Jewelry as a Metaphor for the Dissolution of Our Hopes and Dreams,” a simple track of nothing more than acoustic guitar and voice. This would the “Pink Moon” track for that hypothetical VW ad. The guitar picking is clear and true as a keyboard fills some space 2/3 the way through the track. The existential lyrics make this track a hidden gem a songwriter like Eitzel specializes in. Jason Ankeny’s AllMusic review describes it succinctly, stating, “…its lyrics traffic in stream-of-consciousness wordplay that nevertheless resonates on a profoundly emotional level.”

The reverse side features the similarly loquaciously-titled “The Ecstatic Epiphany: A Celebration of Youth and Beauty Past, Present and Future.” Side 2 is a slow, quiet, stream-of-consciousness track that demonstrates restraint and grandeur simultaneously. In a whisper-y drawl similar to Evan Dando or Tim Kasher, Eitzel delivers his continuous thoughts over some impressive instrumentation that climbs just beneath his low murmur. It’s hard for such a somber, quiet song to soar and comfort the listener, but for a master like Eitzel, it’s just another forgotten b-side.

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Circle X were Louisville, Kentucky’s contribution to the No Wave scene of New York City just before and after 1980. The band bounced around a bit before releasing three singles with three different labels, “Compression of the Species” being the 7″ released by Matador.

On what appears to be the first non-black vinyl release by the label, “Compression…” is perfectly described as “menacing, sample-driven sludge” on their Louisville Hardcore page. The “other side” features similar pulsating drumming and shredding guitar riffs, but the vocals spoken much in the same way Slint delivers the words on “Good Morning, Captain.” Both tracks are challenging mind fucks that fit somewhere in the progression of No Wave’s never-ending story.

A note about the series and this blog…

I am going to do my best to keep both this series and the blog going. I don’t want to start over someplace else, because who starts a blog in 2017? However, I committed to the first 100 releases and it seems weak to stop without even making it a fourth of the way. So, with this post, I should get out three posts this week and/or next week that will cover about six releases. The next covers two 7″ records followed by an LP post. After that, we’ll see. I believe I may have to start buying some expensive records. So, stay tuned.

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