Throughout their existence, Eels’ live show has been many things, but predictable is not one of them. In years past, they have toured as an impromptu orchestra, accompanied by a string quartet, and as a traditional rock band. This time around, enigmatic frontman E decided Eels were a full-on blues-rock revival band. Not a glockenspiel or synthesizer in sight. E took the stage sporting a mighty beard, sunglasses, and bandana, looking like a cross between Elwood Blues and a cult leader. Joining E to form the most recent incarnation of Eels were the Chet, Koool G Murder, Knuckles, and newcomer P-Boo. Though the supporting cast stayed in the background for much of the night, they took centre stage for a few amusing moments. The first involved E pitting the Chet against P-Boo in a battle to win the audience’s love. After the Chet’s decisive victory, drummer Knuckles got to sing his theme song, with Koool G Murder supplying some tasty grooves.

With their first tour in four years and three albums worth of material released in the interim, it wasn’t difficult to guess what would be played. As expected, much of the setlist was taken from Hombre Lobo, End Times, and this August’s Tomorrow Morning. The backdrop flickered between the orange, blue, and purple colour themes of the albums, mirroring the general moods. For the most part, the new songs came off better in person than on record. Hombre Lobo’s characteristic howling was as raw as ever on ‘Prizefighter’, ‘Fresh Blood’ and ‘Tremendous Dynamite’. With the Chet and P-Boo on backing vocals, ‘That Look You Give That Guy’ was a surprise highlight of the night. Material from End Times provided some slower moments. Tomorrow Morning was a largely DIY effort with many electronic touches, and as such, the songs were slightly re-imagined. ‘Spectacular Girl’ in particular benefited from the re-arrangement. Despite being informed that summer had recently passed, covers of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Summer in the City’ and George Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ were thrown in. The latter song was accompanied by E throwing what I’m told were ice cream sandwiches into the crowd.

Continue Reading ‘Eels’ Concert »

Tags:

— , October 9, 2010    1 Comment

Mark Oliver Everett

When the harrowing title and cover art for End Times were revealed, which features an illustration of an aged and white-bearded Mark Oliver Everett (also known as E), I was worried I would be writing a eulogy rather than an album review. Given E’s well-documented family history, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise; the man has been through a lot. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. Part of Eels’ appeal is that E has endured tragedy and speaks so candidly about it, and he continues this on his eighth album.

End Times arrives a mere six months after Hombre Lobo, marking the quickest turnaround between Eels albums yet. I wasn’t immediately enamored with Hombre Lobo and its frequent bouts of howling, though after returning to it months later, it has aged well. While the previous album was a character study recorded as a three-piece, End Times is instead a deeply personal affair which E largely recorded on his own. Upon hearing the simple, heart-wrenching refrain of “Goddamn, I miss that girl” from first single ‘Little Bird’, I had a feeling I was in for something special. E is at his best when he is at his most personal, and those five words signified the inspiration for these songs: End Times is E’s divorce album.

It’s a bold statement to make, but this is E’s best album since Electro-Shock Blues. While this is a man in his mid-40s grieving over his lost love, a failed relationship is something anyone can relate to. The subject was glossed over in his 2007 autobiography Things the Grandchildren Should Know, but the rage, bitterness, confusion, depression, and loneliness are all here, often within the same track. The arrangements are mostly simple, though still making use of all the instruments E has collected over the years. Given the subject matter, the majority of songs are acoustic and introspective.

Eels – Little Bird
Eels – In My Younger Days

Continue Reading ‘End Times’ Album Review »

Tags:

— , January 4, 2010    Comments Off on Eels: End Times

E

With his seventh LP under the Eels name, the first since the excellent double album Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, Mark Oliver Everett (better known simply as E) has grown a beard even surpassing that of the Souljacker era. The look is fitting, as the album is titled Hombre Lobo, Spanish for werewolf. It has been four years since the last LP, but E has kept busy with autobiographies, documentaries, and a pair of compilations collecting the best of the Eels so far.

While Blinking Lights was characterized by musings of God and love, compiled over many years with the revolving door of Eels members, Hombre Lobo is instead subtitled 12 songs of desire. Punctuated with the howls of both E and his trusty canine companion, Bobby Jr., the album imagines an aged “Dog-Faced Boy” from Souljacker as the main character. While writing from a character’s point of view, it’s hard not to believe that E hasn’t slipped some autobiographical details in, as he often does.

Much like the dual-life experienced by lycanthropes, the album is of two identities. Half is filled with fuzzed out rockers like opening track ‘Prizefighter’ and first single ‘Fresh Blood’, while other songs like ‘That Look You Give That Guy’ and ‘The Longing’ are softer and more sentimental in nature. Apart from some strings on “All the Beautiful Things,” the album forgoes the use of Mr. E’s magical bag of instruments, with the majority being performed by the current three-piece Eels incarnation of E, bassist Koool G Murder and drummer Knuckles. As a whole, it’s not one of their best, but there are a few gems present like ‘Beginner’s Luck’, and any excuse to get the band back on tour is a welcome one. Having missed the Eels Orchestra, Eels with Strings, and No Strings Attached tours, I’d rather not miss the chance to see them again.

The bottom line is at this point you either like Eels or you don’t. Much like how Jason Lytle’s solo debut Yours Truly, the Commuter still sounds exactly like Grandaddy, this is still vintage Eels. Keep your silver bullets at bay, ladies and gentlemen.

Eels – Fresh Blood
Eels – Prizefighter
Eels – Beginner’s Luck

Tags:

— , May 31, 2009    1 Comment

With all the scientific literature and research papers I’ve had to read within the last year, my time for pleasure reading has diminished significantly. I’ve been meaning to rectify that. I recently finished reading Things the Grandchildren Should Know by Mark Oliver Everett, better known as E, frontman for the Eels. E’s troubles have been notably documented in his many songs and albums, but this memoir presents the first time E tells his story in print. The book is written in a straightforward tone, beginning with his childhood as son of a renowned physicist, continuing until present day. It’s an interesting look into the mind of one of today’s great artists, filled with stories of the creative process, along with amusing anecdotes about such famous musicians as Elliott Smith and Tom Waits.  E has always been a good storyteller, and it’s proven to be a good read. I highly recommend it.

Eels – Spunky
Eels – I Like Birds
Eels – Things the Grandchildren Should Know

Tags:

— , January 6, 2009    3 Comments
Spotlight    Eels

There is no timely reason for this post, only to inform you that E is a genius and anyone who dislikes the Eels loses some serious cool points in my books. I defy you to listen to the album Electro-Shock Blues and tell me that is not a mind-altering piece of art. Beauty, love, sorrow, life, death. This album covers all of that. Well, mostly death, but still, this is one of my desert-island albums, if it came to that.

Plus, the video for Last Stop: This Town features a singing carrot. That’s what being signed to Dreamworks Records got you, when it existed.

Tags:

— , August 5, 2008    5 Comments