Posted by: dan | September 15, 2009

focus: the eels

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Dan: This is a few months late now, and much later than I originally promised (I’ve been lazy and unmotivated – sorry). Nevertheless I have finally managed to get around to writing a bit about The Eels. I was originally inspired to write about them thanks to their latest album, Hombre Lobo. So here’s my review of said album, including a bit of background on their back catalogue here and there. (Oh, and there’s a Spotify link at the end if you want a suitable backing track.)

HLHombre Lobo is the Eels seventh studio album and Mark Oliver ‘E’ Everett describes it as “12 songs of desire.” He also set out to create an album of straight-forward rock songs; a complete contrast to his previous album Blinking Lights and Revelations. Blinking Lights was a beautiful soft, melodic double-album and possibly his most introspective release so far. Hombre Lobo is honest rather than introspective, describing numerous emotional states of mind.

Hombre Lobo seems to borrow things from all aspects of his career so far. In places it’s harsh and raw like Beautiful Freak, their wondrous debut. In others, it borrows simple piano jingle styles from Daisies of the Galaxy (a rather ditzy but delicious record). But the biggest and most obvious comparisons are to the aforementioned Blinking Lights and Souljacker. Hombre Lobo has two kinds of music. Half the tracks are slow, sorrowful affairs (e.g. That Look You Give That Guy, The Longing) and the other half are raucous, speaker-rocking songs (e.g. Prizefighter, Fresh Blood).

It’s the rock tracks that are reminiscent of Souljacker, which is unsurprising considering Hombre Lobo was designed as the spiritual sequel of Dog Faced Boy, Souljacker’s brilliant opening track. While most Eels fans will talk about Electro Shock Blues (E’s very personal second album – and I very strongly recommend his book “Things The Grandchildren Should Know” – it’s a fascinating read) or Beautiful Freak, both Souljacker and Shootenanny! often get overlooked. Shootenanny isn’t amazing but it’s a solid album, and Souljacker is probably the best record to get if you’re a newcomer.

As you’d expect from the thinking behind its creation, Hombre Lobo’s best tracks are the rockier Souljacker-inspired songs. Prizefighter is a great opening track and the way E howls all over Fresh Blood and Tremendous Dynamite is marvellous. While there’s nothing wrong with the softer tracks they just don’t stand up to the quality of his previous efforts. Only My Timing Is Off and All The Beautiful Things can compare to tracks from Blinking Lights or Daisies. The other slow tracks are quite forgettable, which is a shame as usually E shines on the gentler tracks (for example: the hidden track at the end of Daisies of the Galaxy – Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues).

EOverall, Hombre Lobo is a very divided album. Half of it grabs at you and demands your attention while the rest of the time it’s content to sit in the corner and be ignored. I have problems with the order too. Instead of having a curve from soft to hard tracks or vice versa, they’re all jumbled together. As such there’s almost no flow to the album as a whole, which doesn’t help its cause at all. I can see that it reflects the tumultuous flickering of anger and sorrow that comes from disappointment in love, but who wants to listen to that? One or the other, yes, but to try and relive such a horrible state of mind seems bizarre. And having Ordinary Man as a closing track is a terrible choice, especially when there’s a much better choice right before it in Beginner’s Luck.

I know this looks like I’m not impressed but I can assure you that actually, it’s an album worth owning purely for the strength of just over half the songs here. I just wish that he’d kept closer to the Dog Faced Boy theme.

As a way of introduction, here’s a Spotify playlist for you. Hopefully it’ll give you an idea of the Eels’ output.

(All images taken from The Eels’ website)

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Responses

  1. Excellent overview of Eels’ career. I’m not that keen on the new album, but I think I need to give it a bit more time. Thanks for the playlist, too 🙂


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