On at least one of my videos, I used the first three words from the American Music Club song “Ladies and Gentlemen.” It’s off the album Love Songs for Patriots, which is perhaps the least known album in the band’s canon. That’s because the band broke up in 1994, after the commercial failure of San Franisco — an album I’m quite fond of but was generally seen as a disappointment. And they did nothing for almost a decade, and then got back together for this new album. What is so remarkable about it is that nothing had really changed.
I have a theory about success in pop music: it has to come early. If American Music Club was going to hit, it was going to be with “Firefly” off California. The problem is that while the writing only gets better, it also gets more adult. Now Mark Eitzel was never writing bubble gum, but at least “Firefly” had a a youthful yearning that appeals to kids, “You’re so pretty baby; you’re the prettiest thing I know; you’re so pretty baby; where did you go?” Of course, Eitzel was already pushing 30 when he wrote that; he was in his mid-40s by the time of “Ladies and Gentlemen.”
The music is typical of American Music Club: a deeply layered punk that feels like it is only in the assured hands of this band that it doesn’t explode. The lyrics are a call for all of us (ladies and gentlemen) to be ourselves. Given that Eitzel is gay and he lived in San Francisco in the 1980s and 1990s, it is easy enough to see the song in that context. But I don’t think it needs any context, “If you can’t live with the truth, go ahead, try and live with a lie.” To me, that’s the story of life — the story of growing up.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is time…