The ex-leader of American Music Club's tenth solo album does nothing much to call attention to itself. The drifting, downcast hue suggests that Mark Eitzel isn't the kind of guy who goes out of his way to win over new fans.
The cover image is a grainy silhouette of an artist who is only half there, like he's in the process of being beamed up to the Starship Enterprise.
When he was asked about the characters behind this new set of melodramatic songs, Eitzel didn't seem too sure how to respond but replied "Maybe they are people who spend their time hoping that they will find a way out of the endless dark of the cave".
The album was recorded in England and is meticulously produced by former Suede man Bernard Butler who also plays guitar, bass and keyboards. Butler adds subtle orchestration and lush arrangements to what one feels could easily have been presented as a set of paired-down acoustic songs.
As with The The's Matt Johnson there is disarming intensity and introspection to the material that leaves a nagging suspicion that Eitzel is a man who carries fairly substantial baggage. As such, an invitation to "dance with me in your merciful kitchen" (An Answer) doesn't sound like the kind of offer that you would accept unconditionally.
His crooning voice lends the songs a tragic quality but there is perseverance behind the torment; "If I give up hope then what have I got?" he asks rhetorically on the eccentrically named An Angel's Wing Brushed The Penny Slots.
Nothing And Everything is beautiful in its bleak dissection of a failed relationship but calling another song In My Role As Professional Singer And Ham, reveals that, though Eitzel is serious-minded, he is not averse to self deprecation.
Still, despite some token rock flourishes on La Llorona, the overall mood is more despondent than dynamic.
If you're inclined to be patient this is a collection that gradually draws you into the dark places of the singer's private universe. While this is not a place that glows with optimism it isn't entirely joyless either.
Mark Eitzel & American Music Club's website