Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Eels: Wonderful, Glorious

So far, today has been pretty good.  Despite the fact that I couldn't sleep for shit last night, I managed to make the BEST MUFFINS OF MY LIFE this morning, and then I found a whole rat's nest of missing tupperware tops behind my son's sock & underwear dresser (his response when I confiscated them, through tears: "But Mama, those are mine!!!!).  And now the one-year-old is hammering away on our tiny Elton John piano (not actually endorsed by Elton John) while the three-year-old uses his play ice cream scooper as a telephone.  Oh, and I'm listening to this new, freakin' awesome Eels album.  Ah, life is good.

The little one making beautiful, beautiful noise and eating a snack (notice how I didn't call it "music"?)
So.  Like so many of the other records I've listened to recently, once AGAIN, I've never actually heard anything by Eels before today (that's obviously a lie, since their music has been in many movies I've seen, but whatever.  you get my point).  Therefore, I have to rely on the Internet for a summary of their oeuvre thus far.  It seems to be varied: an interview/article I found on The Sun calls some of their albums "sublime, melancholic, autobiographical" and others "louder, looser, rock-based" and a comment by PogieJoe on the YouTube video for "Peach Blossom" (see below) says "I like happy Eels. It is the happiest happy of all. :D".  Either way, the band is fascinating, a fact that I didn't have to look any further than their own biography page to discover - the father of lead singer Mark Oliver Everett (usually just called "E") was "a quantum physicist who authored The Many Worlds Theory" and E's other unusual family history has been the driving conceptual force behind of many of their albums (if you're interested, you should check out their bio page.  it's good reading!).  As far as this newest one, their tenth, is concerned, E told The Sun that it was the "first time I went into making an album with no plan in mind".  And if the results are any indication, no plan was the best one he could have.

On a purely musical basis, this record is a combination of faster and slower songs, and the texture of the instrumentation is varied, combining lots of fun percussion and some horn elements with the usual suspects.  But you don't have to listen any further than first track "Bombs Away" to know it's going to rock hard, since this track sets the tone for the whole record, opening with a funky, world-flavored drum sequence, a scratchy kaz-tar (that's a cross between a kazoo and guitar that I just made up, although I'm sure Eels has one anyway), and just enough plucked bass notes to get the weird party started ("Nobody listens to a whisperin' fool/Are you listenin'? I didn't think so/I've been quiet as a church house mouse/Tip-toein' everywhere I go").  Other highlights include "Peach Blossom", which barges in on a stumbling drum and blurts of distorted guitar, mixing elements of the Old West with snippets of vague Morphine-esque sex appeal ("Open the window man and smell the peach blossom/The tiger lily/The marigold"), and "Open My Present", a combination of a suggestive guitar lick with equally-suggestive lyrics over a chh-chhing percussive backdrop ("I wanna open my present/Look at it wrapped up in little pink bows").

Beyond the basic nuts and bolts, however, I feel compelled to note that this album is also awesome.  Since, once again, I've never listened to Eels before, I don't know what their past stuff is like.  I do, however, know that this particular record strikes me as what would happen if Tom Waits and Morphine rolled themselves together into a delicious donut and then topped themselves with whipped cream ('cause it's that tasty).  The lyrics are thoughtful and unexpected, the music veers between sheer dance-ability and reflective goodness, and it weaves a subtle Old West element into straight-up, interestingly-phrased sex appeal in a way I'm not sure I've heard before (well, it strikes me as sex appeal, but I'm willing to admit I'm a bit of a weirdo.  it's nothing overt, but it's hot nonetheless)  Oh, and it's currently available as an Amazon download for $5, and you can stream it for free here.  Seriously, you'd be crazy not to.

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