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POP MUSIC

Saturday, November 6, 2004; Page C03

American Music Club

Thursday was a Mark Eitzel kind of day. It's easy to imagine the San Francisco songwriter -- in town to perform at Iota with his once and current band, American Music Club -- walking the streets before the show under gray, rainy skies, bowler hat pulled low, brooding. The weather cleared by the time the group began playing, but the stage had already been set: Bassist Dan Pearson, drummer Tim Mooney and guitarist Vudi were primed to lean into Eitzel's rainy-day introspection.

Reunited behind the shimmering "Love Songs for Patriots," its first work in a decade, AMC plied its stark blend of rock, folk and country with remarkable cohesion, illuminating Eitzel's songs with an engaging locomotion that nearly matched the peak moments of the band's unjustly overlooked career. Crisp readings of new songs such as "Ladies and Gentlemen," "Job to Do," "Another Morning" and "Home" (with their alternately wrenching and lilting timbres) and the wry "Myopic Books" were the hour-plus show's main thrust.

But Eitzel ranged freely into AMC's back catalogue, pulling out "Blue and Grey Shirt," "Nightwatchman," "Mercury," "Sick of Food" and the sweeping "Johnny Mathis' Feet," whose title character Eitzel replaced with the newly reelected president.

AMC closed its encore with "Firefly" (Eitzel then ignored prolonged howls for a second) and walked off triumphant, able to step across 10 years and sound as if it had never been gone. And afterward, it was obvious Eitzel was pleased: His hat was back on, his face screwed into a sour grimace.

-- Patrick Foster

Laibach

At first glance, Laibach seems like any other industrial band: Amid the flashing lights and heavy beats Thursday night at Nation, the group's music appeared to be more melodramatic doom-and-gloom aimed at an all-black-wearing crowd. But something is unusual about the Slovenian group. It claims to have formed its own totalitarian art state, a collective called the Neue Slowenische Kunst (New Slovenian Art) or NSK.

The group's philosophy allows for no individuality: The musicians never introduced themselves, they did not interact with or acknowledge the crowd (save for a bow from the lead singer), and NSK was never mentioned from the stage -- although citizenship applications were available at the merchandise table. Instead, the group's nearly two-hour set flowed together with unwavering monolithic rhythms and the vocalist's demonic growl as he ranted through Pink Floyd's "Dogs of War," overhauled Queen's "One Vision" into the creepy "Geburt Einer Nation" and barked percussively on originals such as "Tanz Mit Laibach."

Midway through the set, two young women joined the group onstage, flanking the singer. They looked like windup toy soldiers set in motion at exactly the same time, their exaggerated motions always in sync as they pounded on snare drums and crossed their drumsticks perpendicularly over their heads in rhythm. They sang, too: The most striking song of the night was the first in the group's 30-minute encore, a simply orchestrated "Mama Leone," with the women's angelic voices floating over the lead's deep rumble. Laibach's momentary restraint provided a stark contrast to the sonic assault that overtook the rest of the night.

-- Catherine P. Lewis


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