Volume 92, Issue 49
Tuesday, December 1, 1998
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Eels' loss is listeners' gain
After looking through the liner notes, it becomes alarmingly clear that this newest offering from California's Eels is not going to be plain sailing. The pages are littered with drawings of tombstones and dark comic strips depicting funeral scenes and desolate cityscapes.
Little wonder that further research reveals lead singer and main songwriter E wrote most of the songs on this album after losing his sister to cancer. The result is a record which explores E's fascination with the plight of the terminally ill and the grieving process of those who are left behind. He manages to meld this sombre subject matter with a quirky, self-deprecating sense of humour, thus making the record seem all the more tragic.
Sonically, the album is a sparse and sometimes eerie affair. The Eels' trademark sound is still detectable, but on this release it has been complemented by the additional use of strings, brass and samples. The result is incredibly effective.
Some of the songs, especially the incredibly poignant "Baby Genius," possess an almost otherworldly quality. At any given time, you're half-expecting to hear the distant hum of a failed heart monitor droning in the background. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Electro-Shock Blues is how it ultimately reveals itself to be an uplifting record. It is no coincidence the album's closer, "P.S. You Rock My World," finishes with the lyric "maybe it's time to live."
Electro-Shock Blues could have easily been an exercise in both self-pity and self-indulgence, but E has somehow managed to instead create a touching, poignant record which effectively conveys misery, pain and hope.
A triumph on all accounts.
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