I came across eels while browsing ('beloved monster' from the film 'shrek' led me to them), and bought the album on impulse. Listening to it for the first time was a wonderful experience. It is brilliant to find something completely new, completely honest and instantly recognisable. Nothing is held back: this music comes from the heart. The lyrics are intelligent, unpatronising and complex, while the music is wonderful, gentle, soothing, melodic. The songs vary from the uplifting ('beautiful freak' and 'spunky' are two of my favourites) to the more gloomy ('flower' and 'susan.') There are songs for good days, and songs for bad days. Every song rang a bell to me, and to find music which is so emotional and beautiful will be refreshing to anyone who just wants to be their own beautiful freak.
'One day the world will be ready for you, and wonder how they didn't see.' (Spunky, track 10)
Without a doubt, this is a life and taste changing album and I first heard this album when I was working at a music store. One of the sales assistants put it on the shop's stereo system and it completely stopped me in my tracks. I struggled to concentrate on what I was doing as it was like nothing else I'd ever heard before and, many years later, it still a similar effect. This is one of those unique pieces of work, of genius, that seems to come out of nowhere, has a profound effect on your world and is never replicated by anybody again. Of course, Mark 'E' Everett and Eels (which have undergone a few line-up changes with E being the only ever-present) have gone on to produce a varied, but altogether rather incredible, body of work, but this, for me, remains his most astonishing, vital and exemplary album.
Everett's major label début as Eels has a rather battered, bruised, dirty and downtrodden feel to it, his voice is weary and defeated and there are so many references to the bleak and often cruel, violent world we inhabit, but it is also a magnificently beautiful slice of indie-pop and the darkness running throughout the album always has little chinks of light which sometimes become dazzling and all-encompassing. You could describe most of this album as "radio friendly" and yet it all has an edge which means that it couldn't really be thought of as commercial. It kicks off with "Novocaine For The Soul", the song which made most people sit up and notice. The verses are dark and menacing, the chorus powerful, but dreamy; it is a near-perfect piece of indie-pop. The opening line of the song (and album), "Life is hard/and so am I/You'd better give me something/so I don't die" is an immediate attention-grabber. It's not the best track on the album, in my opinion, but there is something utterly irresistible about it.
"Susan's House" is another superb composition. Joining Everett as he takes a walk to his girlfriend's house, the light, gentle piano motif is a beacon of light, of hopefulness while the stark beat underpins the verses as he negotiates his way through the streets, witnessing death, disagreements and dealers in a richly descriptive narrative. The excellent "Not Ready Yet" records the thoughts of someone holed up in their room, unable to face the outside world. The hesitancy, frustration and the mental illness are all expressed in a beautifully empathetic way. "Flower" is another of my picks (no pun intended) and the fragile, defeated nature of the music and lyrics compliment each other perfectly. "When I came into this world they slapped me/and everyday since then I'm slapped again", E comments sadly, but there are glimmers of hope and strength, meaning that this is no simple pity party. There aren't many better opening lines in songs than on the sublime "Lucky Day In Hell" which starts with "Mama gripped onto the milkman's hand/and then she finally gave birth" and also contains the very funny "Waking up with an ugly face/Winston Churchill in drag". I could go on. Virtually every song is a gem.
In fact, this is one of those truly remarkable albums where you could almost write an essay on each song, let alone attempting to surmise the whole collection of songs in just a few paragraphs. I have only just touched on some of my personal favourites, but there isn't a sub-par song on this album. "Rags To Rags", "Beautiful Freak", "Spunky"... all simply brilliant. One of the reasons this album is something truly special is the inventiveness, the creativity of the arrangements, the instrumentation and the many sonic and emotional textures which run throughout "Beautiful Freak". The lyrics are also outstanding. This is, without a doubt, one of the greatest albums to have ever been released and I wouldn't hesitate, for a moment, to call it as a masterpiece. Absolutely essential.
on 2 February 2005
This is the first album I've bought through amazon links and recommendations. Its great. As someone who is now in his 40's, I'd started to lose the will to listen to the new, but its really difficult not to like this album. The lyrics are sensitive, witty and strangly uplifting, the music is eclectic with loads of influences which, as someone who grew up in the 70's, I could feel comfortable with. Absolutely recommend it.
This is quite a remarkable CD. In places, it captures the same bleak mood of Lou Reed's "Berlin" though the subject matter is completely different. Musically there are some similarities too in that many of the songs are more like poems read out to music.
If you are going to present something like that, you need strong lyrics and the ones here are certainly up to it. In particular, "Susan's House", "Beautiful Freak", "Flower", "Guest List", and "Spunky".
Musically, Eels have a lot to say, this album is very original and creative. It's well worth a listen.
on 20 November 2007
I don't think to this day you will ever hear any band or artiste like the EELS. What they do so very well is they have a sound of their own, and that sound is full of riffs on the ugliness of life, what it is to be alone, but at the same time has it's sweet and even funny moments. A fantastic example of the rang the EELS have is the song Guest List, a song basically about not being beautiful enough to be on the guest list for a party, "Am I one of the beautiful people?/Is my name on the list?/Wanna be one of the beautiful people/Wanna feel like I'm missed".
The whole album is really beautifully done in an ugly way(not meaning to pun on the album title, Beautiful Freak), in the fact that E's discordant, rough voice, evoking humour, loneliness, and what it is to not be a part of a crowd.
There's so many good tracks on this album, it'd take too long to tell you about them all, and it would ruin the experience. But for me, the track that always gets me right in the chest is Manchild, with it's stark, lonely beauty, sang by E in the voice of a child. The opening guitar on it sounds a bit like Everybody Hurts, like a gently lulling thrum, as he's singing "Every time you crave for me, I'm here/And anything you're hungry for, I'll share/And I will be quietly standing by/While slowly I am dying inside." E knows what it is to be alone; to be in love with a girl who will never return that love and will never be saved, a girl that will forget you as soon as she doesn't need you.
If you've ever felt alone, unrequited and out of step, then I'd highly reccomend this album.