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on 31 August 2003
I am forever indebted to Maisie for being enthusiastic enough to sufficiently persuade my subconscience to firstly pick this out of a crowded record store rack and secondly buy it. The short review ends here: it's utterly flawless, buy it now.
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.
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on 25 July 2017
All the songs are great as you'd expect but Last Stop This Town is in a different league.
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on 1 May 2003
The other day, I was discussing the Eels with a friend and fellow fan. During the conversation, it came out that, whilst owning all the other Eels records, he had never bought Electro-shock blues. When I asked him why, he explained how he thought that with the album being heavily influenced by the death of E's sister, it would be too depressing for his liking. I initially agreed; it does contain two tracks entitled "Going to you're funeral" after all. But after some thought, I came to see that nothing could be further from the truth.
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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on 1 April 2005
That "Difficult second album" syndrome, with a twist.
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.
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on 16 March 2012
We were Eels virgins until quite recently when my brother in law, Jon, lent us a couple of their cds. Now we love 'em! Not really sure how to describe it. I'm not keen on 'quirky' and 'catchy' but you will find it stuck in your head and it is unusual stuff; not too many songs around about suicide, misery, death, mental illness and being the bullied oddball(Goth and Emo excepted). I just want to give poor old E a big hug and tell him he brings great happiness to others. The albums do not all have the same feel but they are all great. Love you E, you big old dog faced boy you.
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on 17 March 2006
Such a bleak and depressing album. Yet I love listening to it.
Somehow it manages to cheer me up everytime.
I think you need to listen to it a couple of times, but once you get it - you cant stop.
highly recommended.
as are all of his albums.
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on 1 January 2005
It was certainly a difficuilt task to follow Beautiful freak, but again the eels don't fail to disappiont. The album maintains the high level of consistancy, which we have come to expect from the eels.
Although some of the other reviews describe it as boring, and depressing. Certainly the single "Last stop: this town" paints a false image of what the album is like, and people buying the album expecting more catchy classics like "novicane for the soul" and "Susans House", will probably be dissapointed. But no hardened eels fan can be unhappy with Electro-shock Blues, it provides simplistic, atmopheric songs, which reflect on a very difficuilt period in E's life. However I feel the real power behind this album lies in the carfully crafted lyrics, these gives the album in my view a subtley uplifting quality, enhancing the album a sense of potensy. All together an awesome album, and one i would recommend to anyone, ( with a taste in quality music).
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on 16 August 2005
Yes, it may be that this whole album centres around the suicude of his sister- confirmed in the opening track, but it thrills throughout. Elizabeth on the bathroom floor draws a depression on the whole album with it's haunting imagery and slow nature.
Mr. E uses the depressing nature of the lyrics however, and chooses to combine it with truly originally upbeat back tones, therefore creating a beautifully ironic tone to the album.
However, each song still holds its own, with some tracks playing out in the most inventive and bizzare manner possible - Cancer for the Cure, and Hospital Food being two prime examples - whilst other tracks play it straighter such as Dead Of Winter.
Being the third album released from the eels, this is an astonishing achievement, as their music just appears to evolve with each album. Beautiful freak is more similar in nature to electro shock blues than daisies of the galaxy, as they both achieve a more sombre tone than the latter album. Make no mistake, this is not a happy album.
Despite all of this, there are a few tracks that don't meet the standard that is expected from the eels. The instrumental track - going to your funeral is nothing compared to the inventiveness of the first track. Other than this no other tracks really go anywhere to spoil the party, but 3 speed edges on being a bit lifeless. But neither of these dissapointments can take anything away from this brilliantly executed album.
Highlights - Efils god , Cancer for the Cure, My Descent Into Madness.
Lowlights - Going to your funeral part 2.
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on 17 January 2002
Eels are like, well .. nobody really!
Whatis more, this is a very different album from the previous Beautiful Freak. So it's nothing like they have done either. So that makes it "New" in my book.
E's well documented family history is in evidence right from the beginning of what, on first listen appears to be a rather melancholy album. But their are a lot of positives to be found amongst the angst.
"Going to your funeral" may seem a rather depressing title, but what a great track. "Cancer for the Cure" follows it up with a song like no other you have ever heard. But then there is "Last stop this town", "climbing to the moon", "ps you rock my world". This album just gets better and better with each listen.
If you are looking for something bizarre then "Baby Genius" is waiting for you.
It can be a challenging listen but well worth the effort.
The whole albulm can be summed up in the lyrics of the last track
" I was at a funeral when I realised I wanted to spend my life with you"
The juxtaposition of the melancholy and the uplifting is a recurring theme of a great albulm.
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on 3 November 2002
Electro-Shock Blues is a pleasant surprise..I was expecting an entire albums worth of bleak, whiny confessional acoustically strummed pieces with the invention and sprightlyness of their debut album all but gone. The beats and rockier moments are still there, but the adversion to the quiet/loud post grunge style has pretty much disappeared...Eels have moved on in this album, which in alot of ways is a good thing as gives the album it's own indivuality without sounding like they are trying too hard to be a different band.There is also a lot more emphasis as expected on more simplistic, reflective pieces..though as I said I was expecting the album to be somewhat even more based in that style.
The harrowing confessional of Elizabeth On The Bathroom Floor sets the bleak tone for the album, but it's a relief to hear that the albums darkness can be put across in different ways such as the throbbing bass of the almost country like structured Going To Your Funeral Part I. Whilst the swirling chaos of Cancer For the Cure and the infectious yet poignant Last Stop: This Town are songs every bit as catchy as the most immediate songs on Beautiful Freak. Explorative songwriting is still shown through the jazz like Hospital Food, the backwards recording tecniques in Efils God and the atmospheric the Medication Is Wearing off, whilst My Descent Into Madness succesfully combines a hip hop beat and a sampled string section without descending into sounding like a tired over produced R&B song.
There are of course plenty of more simplistic moments throughout the album such as the heart-breaking title track, that is so simple and sparse but yet so poignant. Going To Your Funeral Part II is a suitably down-beat instrumental interlude and Climbing to the Moon is one of those songs that does not grab you at first but takes a hold of you with its soulful emotion the more it goes on. And there are more simple confessional types such as 3 Speed and Dead of Winter splattered across the albums 16 tracks.Even though some of these lesser tracks are not exactly classics, they do help solidify what the album is about as Electro-Shock Blues is almost like a concept album, without really pandering to be a concept album.
Beautiful Freak remains Eels best album in terms of an enjoyable set of songs but Electro-Shock Blues is the bands and more to the point E's most important work..it's a window into his mind, and a closure on a dark period of his life. Thankfully E has managed to make this album also an enjoyable but heart-warming/
heart-breaking experience for the listener. Yes the album is down beat both musically and more to the point lyrically, but it rarely descends into being a whiny down paced affair, as the likes of Last Stop: This Town all but prove. (8)
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