The Agit Reader

Mark Eitzel
Hey Mr. Ferryman

February 6th, 2017  |  by Stephen Slaybaugh

There are many reasons not to be one of the minority who voted for the Cheeto currently occupying the White House. Besides it being a clear indicator of your assholeness, if you are really going to stick to your guns and not support the “coastal elite,” you will be forced to listen to some of the worst music imaginable. With choices like 3 Doors Down, Lee Greenwood, and Ted Nugent, it probably would be necessary to give up music all together.

Fortunately, such is not the case in my bubble. To wit, I get to hear the latest from Mark Eitzel without the sensation of bile building up in the back of my throat that comes with listening to Greenwood or Nugent. A coastal elite who has called both San Francisco and New York home, Eitzel has written some of the finest songs of the indie rock era as both a solo artist and as frontman for the American Music Club.

While some of Eitzel’s most recent work has suffereed for having a similar cadence, Hey Mr. Ferryman (Merge Records) breaks that cycle. It is an album that is both grand and intricate, splendorous and intimate. It leads off with “The Last Ten Years,” which is directed at the ferryman sited in the album title. With the memorable refrain of “I’ve spent the last ten years trying to waste half an hour,’ it bears the kind of barside wisdom of his finest work. The subsequent track, “An Answer,” matches such soul-searching to a rich backing that brings out the best in Eitzel’s songwriting.

Throughout the album, one is reminded of the greatest moments from Eitzel’s songbook. With a title reminiscent of an AMC cut, “In My Role as Professional Singer and Ham” is a slow build of sound and emotion. Led by the Vudi-recalling guitar work of Suede’s Bernard Butler, who produced the album and also played bass and keyboard, it ascends to a bloodboiling climax as Eitzel admits, “I look away.” Even the record’s quieter moments exhibit a restrained intensity, and one is left marveling at Eitzel’s freshly tapped reserves. Hey Mr. Ferryman is quite simply among his best.

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