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on 28 July 2000
"I don't know how you take in all the s*** you receive" sings E on the infectiously upbeat yet often sarcastic "Mr E's Beautiful Blues". Perhaps the answer lies in the light, simple feel of much of this album. A marked departure from the tragic mood that prevailed on "Electro-Shock Blues", E spends much of "Daisies of the Galaxy" with his head in the clouds.
The funereal opener, "Grace Kelly Blues" offers closure, a final cathartic release. A stately brass band pounds out a sombre, skeletal introduction seemingly wandering in from a 1980s Tom Waits album, before giving way to an acoustic guitar and E in a reflective mood. Surveying the world in which he's woken up yet again, he lets loose a silent chuckle and sums up with genuine wonder, "I think, you know, I'll be okay". Somehow it's certain he means it, particularly when the song segues seamlessly into the gorgeous "Packing Blankets", E's voice full of hope and liberation as he sets off on an unnamed path, determined to put an end to "all the troubles you and I have seen".
The open-road imagery of "Packing Blankets" suggests a long hot summer, a theme echoed throughout the album. E's at one with nature, whether studying the daisies pushing themselves up through concrete, or swatting the flies in his kitchen. Even the giant man-made spectacle of a rocket launch leaves him unfazed, preferring to stare beyond "the trophy wives of the astronauts" to the birds that flock all around, unaware of the scale of the disruption they face.
For all his newly-revealed joie de vivre, E's songs still display a rich awareness of the need for human contact and comfort. "Jeannie's Diary" is a heartbreaking tale of unrequited love, albeit with a sly admission of the shortcomings of both the dreamer and the object of his obsession ("oh she's got a dark side too, even murderous..."). "Its a Motherf***er", probably the best song here, evokes the longing and loneliness of a distanced lover (or possibly a recently-abandoned one) with stark simplicity. Album closer (save for the oddball bonus inclusion of the single), "Selective Memory", delivered in a childlike falsetto, is a companion piece to "Manchild", the tender conclusion of "Beautiful Freak". Its regret for the distance between what we want to hold in our mind's eye and the memories that slip away is offset by a naive belief that "if I lay my head down, I will see you in my dreams".
The cute children's illustration on the cover is no red herring, suggesting a nostalgic simplicity. E's given himself a straightforward enough brief: pare the songs down, tighten the production and stick to the standard three minutes. Despite the occasional piece of Beck-ish percussion and grooves, particularly on "Mr E's Beautiful Blues" (a bonus track presumably because it sits slightly at odds with the pastoral tone of much of the rest of the album), its a curiously old-fashioned trick. Yet E gets away with dumbly praising birds, and resurrecting homespun philosophies such as "don't take any wooden nickels, when you sell your soul", mainly because the tone is so affirming. If this sounds twee, he figures, so be it. Sometimes its best to go back to the simple things, filter through the best bits of your selective memory, and remind yourself of the good things. As E probably knows too well, life's too short.