The Eels – [Album]

Saturday, 06 June 2009

Over the last few years (pretty much since 2005's Blinking Lights And Other Revelations came out), much has been made of both Eels frontman Mark Oliver Everett's unusual upbringing (thanks, in no small part, to the singer's autobiographical book, Things The Grandchildren Should Know) and his band's ethereal/otherworldly musical voice that seamlessly combines delicacy, heartbreak, catharsis, dizzying confession and smart-assed sarcasm and does it within a mix of thoroughly unusual and surrealistically arranged pop songs. Meet The Eels and Useless Trinkets (greatest hits and rarities comps respectively) further cemented that image by presenting condensed expositions which really played toward that end but, as good as those sets are, they're very superficial. As any long-time fan can tell you, Everett is a hopeless slave to his muse; often making several albums at once and then sitting on them for indefinite periods until the time seems right to release them. As a result, there's no way of really knowing the vintage of any particular record exactly because while it may have just been released, it might not be the newest; it's simply “new to you” and because that control rests completely in Everett's hands, he has been free to design his career as well as the face of it beyond the pull of his muse.

With that knowledge in hand, it suddenly becomes very easy to trace the origins of Hombre Lobo. Because Blinking Lights took so long to appear (it was an ongoing project that the sessions for Shootenanny actually interrupted) the Eels' evolution was postponed and sort of fractured the timeline but, now that everything in one line of thought (Blinking Lights, Meet The Eels and Useless Trinkets) has been expunged, it's possible to go back to where the Eels left off six years ago.

Without meaning to sound contrary, Hombre Lobo is something else again too. Given the band's track record, such a statement might seem a little silly to long-time fans but it's genuine in this case because, as the album's subtitle attests, Hombre Lobo consists of twelve songs of desire and while Everett has played heartbroken several times before over in the course of Eels' six studio albums, never before now has the subject of love been addressed so directly.

It hasn't been looked on before in a positive way. From the opening joyous howl of “Prizefighter,” Mark Oliver Everett starts at the beginning of a relationship where previously he had agonized over the break-ups and dissolution of them; the sight of a beloved and that elation that makes the average guy give chase and the excitement of that act are what drive Hombre Lobo. It's an exhilarating moment and fascinating to hear the change in Everett's demeanor as the singer boasts and preens to get the girl's attention, hopes for it (“That Look You Give That Guy”), gawks at it (“Tremendous Dynamite”), dreams of it (“In My Dreams”) and even begs for it (“What's A Fella Gotta Do”) and covers every point in between in his quest for some affection. Sometimes the lines get blurry – depending upon the track, sex and love seem to become synonymous – but on each song there's no arguing that Everett wants to get close to someone – either mentally or physically.

While such emotional climes could easily be fleshed out with the romanticism and whimsy that characterized the music on Blinking Lights, here the singer goes a far more potent route  and scales the music back to a stomping, blues-based clamor (check “Prize Fighter”, “Tremendous Dynamite,” “Fresh Blood” or “What's A Fella Gotta Do”) that's not forceful, necessarily, as that found on Souljacker, but certainly as lecherous – there are moments here that get so hot and bothered that one almost expects Everett to break into a cover of Bo Diddley's “I'm A Man” – but while it would be a weakness for most any other singer currently in pop, it works incredibly well with his hardened rasp and forces the softer moments forward too.

While fans could easily have expected a rougher record like Hombre Lobo out of Everett, that doesn't mean it isn't a surprise – even as the album plays itself out. Once again, Mark Oliver Everett has turned his own style on its head but, this time while the sound isn't a surprise, the approach to the subject matter certainly is. Perhaps that's the real gift Eels' music gives listeners: even when they know what's coming, words fail description and, as the music unfolds, it proves to still have more to it and more to offer than one could have imagined. Wait – isn't that how most people describe love too? How about that….


Eels official homepage

Eels myspace


“Fresh Blood” from Hombre Lobo by the Eels.


Hombre Lobo
is out now and available to order on Amazon .

Comments are closed.