Articles: Stand and Deliver (Flagpole Magazine - October 2002)

My mailman looks a lot like American Music Club frontman Mark Eitzel. Or, I should say Eitzel resembles my mailman, as my mailman's no doubt been around a damn sight longer. Delivering the mail – rain, sleet, hail or snow, pausing only for esoteric holidays – ain't a cushy gig. It's the sort of grind that can thicken the toughest of souls. For a spell, pop-cult parlance used the job as shorthand for stress-induced psychosis. And, for all Mark Eitzel's lyrical bellyaching, I'm almost positive the man's never delivered so much as a "Have You Seen Me?" flier. Norwegian country sensation Thomas Hansen, on the other hand, made his bones as a postman up through his band St. Thomas' first EP Cornerman, which entered his homeland's charts at #8. And you can hear the job in his music at least as well as you can hear crackling trashcan fires in former homeless man F. M. Cornog's witty dirges. While the American C&W machine tends to eschew anyone that doesn't sound like The Eagles with twangy vocals and big hats, Norwegians still pony up for the sort of fragile, aching pastoralia St. Thomas purveys, enough to propel a postal carrier to national stardom. Hansen and his rotating cast of side players even played the famed Royal Albert Hall earlier this year, earning the scorn of the Norwegian press, which referred to the band as "Sex Pistols with acoustic guitars." Well, that's avfall. There's very little about St. Thomas' new LP I'm Coming Home (Misra) that can be called punk, even by tweakers that insist Johnny Cash is a punk and Afer The Gold Rush is a punk album. It's a disc of fragile textures and trembling falsetto vocals, with lyrics informed by modest wants. (All "Only Love Can Break Your Heart," no "Southern Man.") Occasionally, a melancholy icicle juts through as evidence of some deep-seated suffering, but Hansen clearly knows a place to call home, a pretty girl and a bottle of red are all a man particularly needs. His sadness stems more from exhaustion than angst. He's weathered and wise beyond his years, not creepy like Bill Callahan. His are the thoughts that probably pass through the typical mailman's mind on the last leg of his route, assuming he's effectively put Nam behind him and learned to love the simple life. Now, St. Thomas is headed for Nashville: If not to usurp the US country establishment, then at least to record a new album, with Bablicon's Jeremy Barnes producing. By all accounts, this talented son of Scandinavia is a kind soul who responds to positive feedback and deserves to be treated well. He won't turn his back on you like his Windy City stateside contemporaries, and, if Twin Peaks is any indication, the party in his hotel suite won't stop ‘til eight in the morning.

St. Thomas plays Monday, Oct. 22 at the Caledonia Lounge.

EMERSON DAMERON.



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