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The Eels Go Fetal

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Mark Oliver Everett, also known as E and the driving force behind the Eels, is back. This time he’s released, along with his shifting cast of musicians, an ambitious 33-song double CD called Blinking Lights and Other Revelations.

There are some noteworthy songs on the new release. “Going Fetal” is a hilarious dance craze spoof that requires the listener to, “just get down under your desk/feels like your mama’s nest.” Tom Waits helps out by doing an eerily convincing baby’s cry and this campy rave up includes handclaps and a simulated crowd noise. Returning to the womb was never so much fun.

“Old Shit/New Shit” is an up-tempo pop piece which features the spooky B-movieness of a theremin and some solid drumming by Butch. This tune proved to be addictive after a few listenings.

I thought I was hearing some creepy Beach Boys’ instrumental instead of “Marie Floating over the Backyard.” What beautiful harmonies though, and good organ work on E’s part. Part of me wondered, is this filler or have I put the wrong CD in and am listening to a movie soundtrack?

Well this sort of is the soundtrack to E’s life. He addresses the loss of his entire family on these discs, although some songs work (“Mother Mary”) and some fail miserably (“Things the Grandchildren Know”).

“Hey Man, Now you’re Really Living,” is an ironic send-up which sounds like it should be sung by a chorus of sixties frat boys in a beer commercial. It’s interesting that a dark stanza is followed by a sincere one. “Do you know what it’s like to fall on the floor/cry your guts out till you got no more,” E sings brightly. Later on we get “have you ever made love to a beautiful girl/made you feel like it’s not such a bad world,” thrown in just to confuse us. It seems like E is always struggling to see bright side of depression and his dark sense of humor is what combats it.

There are some brilliant moments on this new release, but there are also some songs that may have been better left on the cutting room floor. There so much going on this new release that I can’t completely condemn it. Overall, it’s far more compelling than 2003’s Shootenanny.

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  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    I really dig the Eels — actually picked up on them from the Road Trip soundtrack of all places with the song that goes “Goddamn right it’s a beautiful day” on the chorus. Great song.

    How did E lost his entire family? What’s up with that?

    Nice job on this review, Jane.

  • http://indemnification.blogspot.com -E

    The first time I heard of them was a show they played here in Austin while I was in high school. Been a fan of theirs ever since. I’ll have to go get this double CD.

  • http://www.thebeautifullull.com Tom Johnson

    Eric: E’s had a pretty rough life – his sister committed suicide in the late 90s, then his mother died of cancer (which is documented in Electro-Shock Therapy,) and his father had died of a heart attack when he was a teenager. His father, it’s interesting to note, was a quantum physicist, Hugh Everett III, known for the “many worlds” theory.

    I think most of the songs are absolutely necessary for the emotional arc of the album. It’s the instrumentals that could have been left off, and would likely have enabled the music to fit on one disc. I’m less enthused about the up-beat songs as I don’t think they really add much to the narrative, and the darker, quieter songs were impenetrable for me for quite a while. When they finally got through, I really appreciated them and grew to love the album. Now, were I asked to recommend an Eels album, I would point people to this one with the condition that they allow it to soak in over time – it’s the most rewarding work he’s every done, but it doesn’t give up those rewards easily.

  • http://www.lovenotfear.blogspot.com Marc

    Thanks for the honest review, Jane. I have always had a love/hate relationship with The Eels, but I think it may be time to give them another chance.

  • jane ripley

    Thanks for the comments and support everyone.

    Tom, I appreciate you answering Eric’s question. I feel for E suffering from the colossal losses of losing his entire family, however, some of these songs were too depressing and convoluted for my taste. I like funny stuff and the instrumentals the best. But like I said, there’s enough strengths on this CD that it’s worth the purchase.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    I’ve got to give this a listen; we’ll see if they’re on iTunes.

    Jane, This work of art in words you have created now has another venue for success, glory and taking control of the world :-) – and many more eyes – at the Advance.net Web sites, a place affiliated with about 10 newspapers.

    One such site is here.

    Also please let your contact know the review is published at one more place. That helps a lot.

    Thank you.
    Temple Stark

  • jane ripley

    Thanks Temple. I appreciate you getting my work out there to other sites.

  • claire

    Well,

    A little behind on the posts but so glad to see the eels getting recognition. At home here (Dublin), they are practically unheard of! Just getting up to date on purchasing the albums (Beautiful Freak being one of my favourite). Dont suppose anyone could tell me what their dedicated website would be?

  • jane ripley

    Thanks Claire. It almost seems that way here in Colorado too.

    I love Electro-Shock blues, but Daisies of the Galaxy has grown on me.

    http://www.eelstheband.com is their official website.

  • claire

    Hi jane thanks very much for that!