Shy and flirtatious, the record is most immediately striking in its peculiar mix of the odd and the impenetrable. Give it time though, and like a friend becoming more open the tunes come out to play in all the sunshine of a pop record. From behind the daunting veneer of E's eclecticism (the record encompasses ska, hip hop and tom waits-style odes to the oddball with seamless cohesion) there emerges, with time, a secret garden of some of the most beautiful music put on record in the last ten years.
On the opening and title tracks E manages to chronicle his sister's suicide with the kind of semi-detached intimacy that steers Sylvia Plath's 'The Bell Jar' away from trite self-pity and into something genuinely harrowing and affecting. It's like watching a car crash - terrible and private in its horror, yet somehow seductive in its explicit beauty. Even at its most desperate, Electro-Shock Blues is as addictive as hell.
The events that would inspire much of the album (The suicide of E's sister and his mother's terminal illness) are perfectly balanced in the closing PS You Rock My World. What can you say about this song? From the very abyss of despair comes a hope like the thread of light from beneath a cell door, a hope that moves to tears, shivers and near nausea. If the previous 40 minutes of Electro Shock Blues are spent emptying your soul to the very last drop, its final three are spent pouring back sweet, hair-on-end affirmation of life itself. Sometimes words are just so inadequate, aren't they?
Still, in between the harrowing and the beautiful is some of the most infectious, contagious music I have ever heard. From the strutting ska of Hospital Food (a thinly disguised rewrite of Squeeze's 'Cool For Cats') to the insane stalling mosh of 'Last Stop: This Town' and the slight, low-key humour of 'Baby Genius' 'Electro-Shock Blues' is an embarrassment of riches. Really, there isn't a duff track on here.
The fact that I am already looking forward tomorrow to throwing my hard-earned student rate cash at the remaining Eels albums is testament enough. You really would struggle to find a more worthy purchase on this entire website.
For me, the lyrics and sleeve was intense and moving experience. Listening to the album, you are immersed in the pain, loss, and sadness that E was going through at the time. Interspersed with a few sunny episodes, which intensifies the agony.
Is it a great work of art ? Yes.
Is it pleasant listening ? No. By about track 10 it is a contender for the most depressing album ever.
Should you buy it ? Hmmm. I'd advise most folk to start with Daisies of the Galaxy and then try Beautiful Freak. But this album takes you on a difficult journey. I doubt you'll listen to it all that often but perhaps it deserves a place in your collection.
This is infact a hugely uplifting album. Yes, individually tracks such as "Elizabeth on the bathroom floor" are nothing but harrowing. (E's sister was called Elizabeth by the way) But the album is more about how E came to terms with his sister's death than her death itself, and as such makes for a profound listening experience.
The opening half of the album deals mainly with his grief and anger at what's happened, giving some great musical moments on the way. Then the album turns on the line "You're dead, but the world keeps turning" on Last stop: this town and he becomes more acceptant and reflective about what's happened. But, the main reason why it's such an uplifting album is that it can begin with the line "my life is s**t and p**s", and then end with the line "maybe it's time to live".
Musically, it contains some of E's best work. There is a real diversity of styles, yet all the songs have a distinctive Eels feel about them. There's dissonant Jazz with a Tom Waits feel, accousic lead tracks, and more rocky moments with the odd hip-hop style beat thrown in for good measure! All held together by E's soulful vocal.
My personal Eels favourite, the highlights for me are the lush My Descent Into Madness, the bleak Electro-Shock Blues, the rocky Last Stop: This Town, and the simply beautiful P.S You Rock My World. Highly recommended.
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