Glasgow: 13th Note Club, Tue 17 Feb.
'Dark' is a word constantly employed when writing about the music of Mark Eitzel, as are 'Stark', ’Grief’, ‘Desolation’ and 'Bitterness'. Speaking with the former American Music Club president about his latest collection — the wonderfully, Kingly titled Caught In a Trap And I Can’t Back Out Because I Love You Too Much, Baby however, it becomes clear that heretofore we’ve been somewhat missing the point. The word, it transpires, is ’Cuisine’.
’People ask me about songs,’ he says. 'They have these interesting interpretations and I say, "no, that song is about food. It's about being really, really hungry and having a choice between a banana and a chocolate bar, and you don‘t know what to pick, so you have a coffee instead.” A friend of mine has a theory that all songs are either about sex or food. All the songs on this record are about sex. Except for the second one - that's about food.’
It's now over fifteen years since Eitzel first appeared with the AMC, and in that time, he maintains, his reasons for writing have remained unchanged. 'When I was an adolescent, I wanted to be Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett,’ he
ponders. ’But I was too lazy. And I had a dearth of talent. So it's easier to write songs — and when I write songs now it’s the same: it’s because I wanna write. I write incredibly bad poetry too, and stupid little surrealist films I'll never be able to afford to make.’
At the moment, though, somewhere in the heart of San Francisco, Eitzel is working on a project which is consuming him. Interviews are being cancelled or delayed because of it. He’s painting his bathroom.
’lt's going pretty good,’ he reports. ' I've got it all speckled, it's going okay. My tenants are going to hate me, though. I don't know what I was thinking. I’ve got
Mark Eitzel curiously prefers coffee to bananas and chocolate bars
eggnog for the walls and brown for the trim. It sounds like a pub. They're going to hate it — "Well, we thought maybe a nice pastel, Mark". No! Brownl Shit brownl
So, just why should you attend Eitzel’s forthcoming, web—delicate little performance? As the man himself puts it: 'The show in Glasgow is going to be an incredible journey, through love and hope and sex and food. People are going to leave there feeling like they've been to an amazing banquet. Tell the people where I’m coming from, man.’
Glasgow: King Tut’s, Fri 13; Edinburgh: La Belle Angele, Sat 14.
Tiny Wood, the ironically named lead singer With Ultrasound, seems a bit non-plussed With this rock star malarkey After long years of plodding around in the musical wastelands Without even a snufer of interest, the last twelve months have wreaked
Ultrasound: not on a hiding to nothing
profound changes From aosolute obscurity, Ultrasound have whipped up a rabid A 8 R storm, signed to Nude, been nominated for Best New Band at the Brats and garnered ciloWing notices from slavering hacks
'I don’t feel any different,' sighs Tiny. 'lt's as though I'm observing rather than partICIpating'
Ultrasound’s music is involvmg even if its Creator feels distanced. It's a big guitar-based sound that is forever
attracting the word 'epic’ along With comparisons to The Who, Radiohead and assorted prog rockers that nobody under the age of 30 has ever listened to. There’s a psychedelic, spacey quality to it that sets it a million miles apart from the mono-browed hordes of retro-regresswes who are shifting the units at the moment. Just to cap it all, their bassist Vanessa has a tendency to rOund off gigs by screaming like a wounded animal for ten minutes.
The end result is as unsettling as it is unworldly. If the hair on the nape of your neck isn’t taut With fear and wonder, your imagination must have QOIie walkabouts.
For all Tiny’s onstage grandiose gestures and the monumental quality of the music, he professes to a most unrock ’n' roll shyness, Surely the stage is no place for the timid?
'Being on stage is a form of hidrng,’ reckons the Singer. 'YOu've got your mates to hide behind; I couldn’t be a stand-up, alone on the stage. It’s the songs that drive you to perform. You write them in the privacy of your own bedroom but they have to be performed. I feel I have to do that. I need to to do that.’ (Jonathan Trew)
FOLK The Vast Majority Edinburgh Folk Club, Wed 18 Feb.
Since forming for last surnmer’s Killin Folk Festival, the Vast Majority have impressed punter and critic alike mth their fresh, uncomplicated and highly mUSICdl take on essentially traditional Scottish mUSlC.
Not that the four musicians are strangers to performance, as keyboard player Andy Thorburn wrvly reveals ’This band was about ten or fifteen years in the making. We prepared by playing in Wolfstone and Mouth Music and ' Off he. goes, lf’tjllllt‘: til." a succession of hands stretttinn rat’x through Scotiarid's rare“: cti'tural renaissance
Thorburn, who also handles accordion, has always been a promiscuous muSician, and is currently adding his skills to the Hoover‘s, the all- instr'umental Gliillies, a duo With fiddler Ian Hardie, occasional one-offs like the recent piano duet concert With jazz co'nposer Dave lvlillirian at «’eltic‘ Connections and one of his favourites — the downright idiosyncratic, 'The Love Boat an eleven piece band performing the great romantic ballads of the last 50 years.
But ThOrburri really feels the Vast Majority has something special ’lt's like a powerful car -« turn the key and it’s off,’ he says. 'This is the fast-lane bunch. We know we can go anywhere lt’s only a year old but this band plays as if glued together.’
And we’re not a cut-down Wolfstone. And we’re not the already- established Duncan (Chisholm) and Ivan (Drover) duo, beefed up With keyboards and drums ilain Murray). We're something else, born out of a comcrdence of feeling, an energy. and no sense of predeteriiiination.‘
‘We Surprise people,’ he continues For instance we sit down to play, but we're still shit-kicking. TllOfC’") Ivan’s own songs; and Duncan has been penning lyrics too, but there is always a strong traditional feel A Scottish one We want to use that musical language to communicate'
An album is in the offing — not that Thorburn thinks it’s so important, pointing out that, ’bands on record are all right, but there’s an enormous here~ and-now to music - that’s what we're about.’ (Norman Chalmers)
The Vast Majority are in the right
6—19 Feb 1998 THE “ST 47