54. Toiling Midgets – Mr. Foster’s shoes

February 8, 2010

/ Golden frog, Matador, 1991

Anyone who had missed the ‘Bad liquor’ wildness and fury of American Music Club from Everclear onwards – in a recorded sense, for live Eitzel could still be just as unhinged as he once was routinely in the days when the group performed mostly in San Francisco alone – would welcome the howls of rage that formed his contributions to Toiling Midgets’ Son LP (or ‘Sketches tO make you ruN away’ as the back cover put it).  It gives you a sense of the many musical Mark Eitzels there were, might have been, and indeed have been, more or less successfully, since he broke free of the restrictions he felt being a member of American Music Club placed upon him.  Eitzel was really only passing through the Midgets as a guest vocalist; they had been Toiling a long time before he came on board – since the late seventies San Francisco punk scene, in fact.  Drummer Tim Mooney would later became a member of American Music Club; AMC’s Tom Mallon was also involved in the making of Son.

Part prog, part punk, part alt or avant, there’s the light and shade but not the subtlety that made Engine, California, United Kingdom and Everclear such inviting records in which to wallow, but it’s still a compelling listen, dissonant and discordant, a definite precursor of quiet-loud post-rock.  Eitzel fits right in, bad-mouthing the moon and everything it illuminates.

Another favourite of Eitzel biographer Sean Body’s, coming at number two in his personal selection of the best less well known American Music Club songs in his book Wish the world away, ‘Mr. Foster’s shoes’ is a stripped-down version of a song on the LP, with the psychodrama of Eitzel’s vocal performance underscored by Tom Mallon’s string arrangement, beautifully played by cellist Carla Fabrizio.

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