There hasn't been any band like Eels that have been an important part of my life since entering it at the turn of the century. Sure, "Novocaine For The Soul" was a song I requested a lot on my local radio station in my early teens, but it was earlier this decade when Souljacker was released, and E dawned the cover with a grizzly beard that gave the unabomber a run for his money. At the same time, I obtained my copy of their epic Electro-Shock Blues, an album to this day that still holds the specialist of places in my heart. It has always been my go to in times of endless grief and sadness with the few deaths I've had to implore the last few years, and it always will be: "Dead of Winter" being the cornerstone of ultimate loss.
With those two albums, I could always see myself in E's lyrics. And a few months ago, I was given my copy of his latest, Hombre Lobo, and the beard from the Souljacker days hath returneth, along with my pension for living vicariously though his pain. Subtitled 12 Songs of Desire, E has decided to live through the character of the Dog Faced Boy that Souljacker's lead song is about, down to that gnarly beard. The songs are rough, brash and loud at times; chunky guitars and overmastering fill the speakers during the rocous "Tremendous Dynamite" and the opening "Prizefighter". And facing off are the songs that follow; in a near album-length loud/quiet/loud dynamic from song to song, the first half follows this sequence to a T. After the prize is the quiet and wanting "The Look You Give That Guy," before the gritty bastard child of anything off of 2005's Blinking Lights & Other Revelations' "Lilac Breeze" finds E with a rather humorous tongue when he states 'Birds do it / Bees do it / I wanna do it / The Only thing we to do is get down to it.'
And after the bombast of "Dynamite" comes the mournful "The Longing." Right up there with "Winter" in the Saddest Eels Song category, E woefully strums his guitar as he tries to just move on, to get her out of his head, to detach her venom and poison that has seeped in to his brain. He hasn't sounded this frail and desperate, whether he's singing as a charcter or as himself, since Electro-Shock; especially in the way he delivers to us what he misses: "Her smell, her touch / Her Smile, her laugh."
No two Eels records are ever the same really, but to compare it sonically to anything before this, you could say Lobo is a dirtier, and grittier sounding Shootenanny. Catchy straightforward guitar licks and other rhythms are covered in dirt, stomped out like our protaganist's heart has been on a song like "What's A Fella Gotta Do". "All The Beautiful Things" is the furthest this album gets from the sound achieved on the other 11 tracks with a cleaner sound as E is aware of how he is great and how she knows he is great, yet she won't accept him just yet.
Blinking Lights was named Album of the Year by me in 2005. Whether Hombre Lobo will take the cake this year remains to be seen, but what can be seen is that E has once again made an album that his fans will love and appreciate, as he branches out in to making a record unlike Blinking Lights, and another dozen songs that I will forever and always be able to identify myself with.
Stream: Tracks from Hombre Lobo [MySpace]