on 7 February 2007
Reading through some of the other reviews from Amazon customer's on this album reinforces my view that Shootenanny! doesn't always get the credit it deserves.
While it is true that the previous 4 albums were always going to be a hard act to follow, Eel's 5th album shouldn't be condemned as simply a taster for the (admittedly magnificent) Blinking Lights.
Opening track "All In A Day's Work" displays E's black humour at it's best, while "Saturday Morning", as another reviewer pointed out already, should evoke fond memories for any of us who recall what it was like to be a kid waking up at the start of the weekend wondering what havoc we could cause that day-I could even claim that listening to it has made me more forgiving of my own kids when they run riot through my flat of a Saturday afternoon. Indeed, to me at least, it is this ability to write poignantly on any subject from childhood experience to the (rather more dark) material of "Restraining Order Blues" which marks Mark "E" Everett out as one of the finest songwriters of this generation(along with the wonderful Ian McNabb-but that's another story...)
But this is not a "bleak" album in the way that say, "Electro-Shock Blues" was, although still a fine work in itself maybe not the best "starting point" for the curious first-time Eel's purchaser? Admittedly I am too sentimental for my own good but the two songs which make this album for me are the glorious "Numbered Days" and to a slightly lesser extent the closer "Somebody Loves You". If these songs don't fail to melt the hardest heart or bring solace to anybody who(like most of us)has had a hard time either generally or from the dreaded "affairs of the heart" then there really is no hope for you(and I speak as a cynic).
Much is made(quite rightly) of the fact that E is a talented multi-instrumentalist, but what makes this album for me is his voice-certainly not classically beautiful by any means but the sheer empathy, humanity and world-weariness he feels really comes through on Shootenanny!-indeed there are few better commentators on the human condition in the world of music at the moment.
In conclusion, if you've never bought an Eels album before, then you won't go wrong with any of them but please don't let yourself be put off "Shootenanny!" as some sort of "Second-Rate" Eels product-it stands up on it's own and is well worth your consideration.
on 13 December 2003
I'm an Eels fan, I'd better get that off my chest before I begin. This doesn't mean that I'm biased towards them, but rather that, like most Eels fans, I'm inclined to be pessimistic that any new album is unlikely to match up to previous offerings.
However, in the case of Shootenanny! my first impression is that it is a masterpiece to rank alongside Beautiful Freak and Electro-Shock Blues (an album which the Melody Maker derided as unlistenable and then promptly and amusingly went bust). The subject matter of the new album still relates and appeals to the outsider in society, but the music reverts to the melodic pop/rock of Beautiful Freak.
A melancholic, bluesy influence is apparent in the tracks All In A Day’s Work, Agony and Restraining Order Blues, with its repeated plea, "Everybody knows that I'm not a violent man", contrasting with the touching poignancy of the most beautifully realised song on the album, Numbered Days (the equivalent, if you like, to Manchild on Beautiful Freak).
As for Saturday Morning, E has not created a more wide-eyed, childlike, magical vision of the world since Tomorrow I'll Be Nine on his solo album Broken Toy Shop. The Good Old Days is another throwback to E's solo material, exhibiting a gentle world-weariness, while the laid-back, funky Love Of The Loveless is the album's summer anthem. The dry humour which pervades the album is probably best exemplified by Fashion Awards, a satire on the fashion industry.
From the muso's point of view (and skip to the end of the paragraph if this is likely to bore you to death), Rock Hard Times is the most interesting track on the album. The descending bass line which provides the basis for the chorus is first played in the key of B-flat, and later in F, C and G. I don't know if there is a precedent for a song in which the chorus is stated on separate occasions in four different keys (something by Frank Zappa maybe?), but it's undoubtedly a striking innovation.
The final track, Somebody Loves You, is the happiest, most optimistic closing song on any Eels album to date, and its understated, downbeat last few bars constitute probably the most perfect ending to any album I have ever heard.
Only the uninitiated would deny that E has a serious claim to being the greatest singer-songwriter of his generation. In my mind, Shootenanny! is the album which cements this claim, and an album which is unlikely to be surpassed as the best of the year 2003. It is difficult to choose standout tracks, but the songs which I rate most highly are Saturday Morning, Agony, Rock Hard Times, Numbered Days and Somebody Loves You.
In short, it's a great time to be an Eel.
on 4 November 2003
Those familiar with The Eels will be used to a mixture of dark and uplifting melodies with an injection of black humour and you won't be disappointed with Shootenanny! If you've not experienced The Eels before, I urge anyone who enjoys intelligent music to go out and buy this - E has to be one of the most talented songwriters around who always seems able to make me smile with one lyric but then contemplative with another.
This album is definitely an improvement on the spiky, mixed bag that was Souljacker. It has some of the catchiest tunes I've ever heard from The Eels (Saturday Morning, Dirty Girl and Lone Wolf being highlights) which are interspersed with beautiful, meaningful melodies such as Somebody Loves You and The Good Old Days. My favourite? Agony, which is one of the most haunting, interesting songs I've heard in a long while.
Why The Eels are not massively popular in the UK where you would surely expect their black humour to appeal is a mystery to me. However, maybe its a good thing as their intimate gigs are a real hidden treasure.
on 6 June 2003
After the disappointment of the last album, 'Souljacker', I was slightly worried about this new one. However, I needn't have been. As in 'Daisies of the Galaxy', the album constantly switches between emotions, from funny to wistful to lonely and back to simple happiness again. E's genius in always picking the right words comes through, especially in 'Dirty Girl', as he mixes humour with regret, and again in 'Rock Hard Times' and 'Restraining Order Blues'. And, once again, it rocks.
Although it lacks some of the quirkiness and originality of 'Daisies of the Galaxy', it is still one of the best albums around. He experiments with his voice, as well as the guitar and electronics, to give him his instantaneously recognisable sound.
An absolute must for every Eels lover, a great pick-me-up as well as an emotional album, it gets better with every hearing.
on 7 February 2005
"Shootenanny," say the Eels "was essentially the document of a live four piece rock band in the studio, recorded in ten days, as a kind of working vacation from the long and arduous process of making BLINKING LIGHTS"
Blinking lights is the next Eels album, and what I've just heard on their online 2 track sampler, it's going to be incredible.
This though, I think has to be understood as a bit of a side show from the main event. That's not to say it isn't very good, but it's not in the same league as the Electro-Shock or Daisies.
That said, it does go on to showcase how accomplished a songwriter E is. These quick compositions both rock you and move you, and are full of E's infamous wit. It has that great enery that comes from a live four-piece band (including Kool G and other usual suspects) and there's also a real beauty in the simplicity of many of the songs, particularly love of the loveless. Other highlights, Rock Hard Times, Wrong about Bobby, and Good Old Days. Shame Saturday Morning was so quite as a single, at least here in the UK.
It does mean, however, that many of the songs are samey and there's not the usual inventive instrumentation that make Eels such a joy. It's also a bit unsatisfying, if thought of as a proper album. But as a quick fix before the main event (coming April 26 - why can't we get it on Amazon yet if there's a worldwide release date?) it will do just fine. Cheers E.
on 6 June 2003
This is probably Eels most consistent album since Beautiful Freak. The mood is decidedly mellow (even summery) in places with jangly guitars and an alt.country feel to several tracks. Lyrical preoccupations with the blacker side of life persist but the usual flashes of wit remain. For some the album may be a bit bland, lacking the bite and wilful perversity of some of their other offerings but I liked its gentler mood. The Wilco comparison is a fair one too-without the experimentalism of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
on 13 April 2005
I have been trying to decide which is my favourite album of all time between "Elephant by the White Stripes, "Absolution" by Muse or this, and I think this album just wins it, because I can relate to the lyrics in almost every song, so they all mean something to me. I really do think this is a masterpiece. After a few listens, there was only one track I did not like - "Fashion Awards", but I persevered with it and I even find myself humming that from time to time. This is one of only a few albums I can listen over and over without getting bored.
on 17 October 2004
I have always had a soft spot for the eels and enjoyed all of their past offerings especially electro shock blues however this marks a high point for me with what I think is their best to date.
Beautiful songs from simple ideas blending emotions, melodies and the subject of life and its complexities.
One of my all time favourite cds.
on 5 June 2003
Once again the eels change direction returning this year with a more bluesey album but like before no matter what Mr E turns his hands to it ends up as something wonderful and original. This is the rock of Souljacker or the darkness of Electroshock Blues and neither is it the more pop/rock-like Beautiful Freak; however importantly it is that unmistakeable eels sound. I already have favourite tracks after listening to tracks on the eels website. These include "Saturday Morning" (the first single off the album i think and more rocky), "Love of the Loveless" (slower paced more melncholy) and "Rock Hard Times" (one to wave your zippos to if performed live). Anyhow this is a great album and I have only listened to it a few times so far. Hopefully I think it should grow on me even more - thanks Mr E
on 3 June 2003
Up until the release of 'Souljacker' in 2001 I honestly believed eels could do no wrong. But the banality of that album, on the whole, changed my mind. And so it was with some anxiety that I awaited the release of 'Shootenanny!'. With no UK release of any single before the albums release I had no idea which direction Mr E and co. had decided to take, hoping that they had abandoned the harder rock stodge that made up the most of 'Souljacker'. Fortunately they have.
Although there is nothing on this album that stands up to the emotional beauty and complexity of any track on their first two albums, there are some superb songs here, notably 'All In A Day's Work', 'Dirty Girl' and 'Fashion Awards'.
Many of the tracks have done away with the sonic experamentalism of earlier eels work, and bears a closer resemblance to the musical styles of E's solo work.
All in all a worthwhile and enjoyable album, though nowhere near as special as 'Beatiful Freak' or 'Electro Shock Blues'.